More often than not, the tone for refereeing in the Championship is set in the first couple of weekends.
In previous years, problems were encountered in the opening games in May but what we’ve seen over the last two Sundays have been generally positive.
I was at Dr Cullen Park yesterday for Meath’s victory over Wicklow and saw Padraig Hughes put in a great performance over the course of 80 minutes — the regular 70 plus injury-time.
I’ll get back to that game shortly but going back to the weekend before last, it was great to see Michael Duffy get Laois’s square ball call 100% correct in Longford.
The rule hasn’t changed for set plays, meaning the attacking player or players are not permitted into the area from sideline kicks, frees and 45s until the ball has first entered it.
It needed a practical example like last Sunday week to educate people. Certainly, the Laois players didn’t realise it because they were arguing with Duffy about it. But, fair play to him, he was very clear on it.
Hughes yesterday was very much on the ball. In difficult weather conditions, he was in total control for the duration and technically excellent.
Padraig is young so he wouldn’t have so much a problem with the heat, but it can be difficult for referees closer to the age limit of 50.
It can be an issue for referees towards the end of the game when there is a toll on them physically and their focus can be interrupted.
Padraig blew up for four illegal pick-ups and the same amount for over-carrying on the ball. He also showed James Stafford a red card for a second yellow card infringement, the first of them for verbals.
By the time Stafford picked up his second in the closing stages of normal time, he was clearly frustrated. It had little impact anyway as Meath looked to have the game won.
Padraig also played eight minutes injury-time in the second-half, allowing for the lengthy attention to Leighton Glynn.
Not playing enough additional time is a bugbear of mine and it’s an issue I will address in the weeks ahead but Padraig was correct yesterday.
His refereeing had no impact on the game but something I’ve noticed over the last while is the disadvantage Division 3 and 4 teams have come Championship time. As all Championship referees are grade 1 officials, teams in Division 3 and 4 haven’t had the opportunity to be refereed by them during the league. Yesterday was the fourth time Padraig has been in charge of a Meath game this year whereas it was his first with Wicklow.
Longford had seven different referees during the league and none of them are on the championship panel.
Again, Padraig had a fine game but the appointments committee need to address this.
*John Bannon (Legan Sarsfields) is a former inter-county referee who officiated in the 1998 and 2002 All-Ireland finals. He continues to referee clubs games, is a Leinster Council delegate for Longford and referees in-house training games for the Kildare senior footballers.
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