Retiring hurling referee Brian Gavin admits he felt pressure from Tipperary supporters during his officiating career, as they deemed his style of reffing favoured Kilkenny.
Gavin took the whistle for the 2016 final between the old rivals, having reffed the 2014 replay and the 2011 decider, both Kilkenny wins over Tipp.
In the end, he didn’t even have to show a yellow card in the game as Tipperary won easily with a sparkling display.
Speaking to GAA.ie, Gavin said: “Tipperary people felt that my refereeing style suited Kilkenny and were probably a little bit wary going into the final, but they definitely had no complaints coming out of it because it was a class match and Tipperary just gave an exhibition that day.
“It’s fairly seldom in refereeing that you’d get that much praise. I suppose that match just worked a dream for me from start to finish.
“I had no yellow card or red card to give out and I think there was only about 20 frees. I was really confident going into that final even though there was a little bit of pressure on me.”
Gavin, who reffed four finals in all, has announced his retirement, admitting it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the fitness required to keep pace with the modern player.
“I’ll definitely miss it, there’s no doubt, but I just feel I’ve come to the right decision,” Gavin said.
“It’s getting harder every year. Even though I’m only 40 I’m still 20 years older than some of the players, so it’s getting tougher and tougher.
“The modern player is so fit now it’s just unbelievable,” he said.
“It’s a challenge for referees as well to raise their standards but I have to say in the last 10 or 15 years that the standard of fitness of referees has gone well up above wherever it was and you can see it now in matches because referees are covering between 10 and 12 kilometres.
“I really enjoyed my time, I had four All-Ireland finals and four Munster finals. I’d probably say now I would have liked to get five All-Irelands, but when I started off I would have been thrilled with even one, never mind four. So, I definitely have no regrets.”
His standout game was none of those finals, but another thrilling encounter between Kilkenny and Tipp, another Cats victory.
“I suppose the greatest game ever was the qualifier in 2013 between Kilkenny and Tipp down in Nowlan Park,” he said.
“That even surpassed the All-Irelands. Memories like that from games like that are very special and I’ll definitely miss being involved in those.
“I was lucky enough to be on the pitch with some of the greatest hurlers we’ve ever seen. The likes of Tommy Walsh, Seamus Callanan, Joe Canning, Henry Shefflin, all of them.
“And then lucky enough when you get to referee an All-Ireland final you get to go on the All-Star trip and you get to know the lads a good bit more which is great.”
Meanwhile, Conal Keaney has delivered a boost to the Dublin hurlers by coming out of retirement at the age of 35.
The @DubMatchTracker Twitter account last night confirmed Keaney had rejoined training ahead of the weekend’s Walsh Cup semi-final meeting with Wexford.
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