Young enough to play... too old to referee
Croke Park has stepped in to veto a plan which would have left the GAA facing charges of adopting an ageist policy for referees as young as 35.
Having already disappointed more-experienced referees last year by announcing that they would have to quit the inter-county scene at the age of 50, the latest proposal was to prevent anybody over the age of 35 being promoted to the elite panel for the first time.
That would have created a bizarre situation where someone over 35 could play for his county at the highest level, only to be deemed too old to referee.
If, for instance, Eamonn O'Hara (Sligo) and Tony Browne (Waterford), both of whom have remained an integral part of their county teams well past their 35th birthdays, decided to take up refereeing on their retirement, they could never hope to reach inter-county standard under the proposal.
On a more practical level, it would mean that anyone who took up refereeing in the 32-33 age-bracket could not realistically aspire to reaching inter-county level before the cut-off point.
The proposal emerged from the National Referees' Committee (NRC), but once it came to the attention of the GAA's Management Committee, headed by Christy Cooney and Paraic Duffy, clarification was sought.
Management feared that if the 35-year age limit was applied, it would seriously reduce the intake of referees, especially among those who were planning to take it up after retiring from playing either at club or county level. The plan was later vetoed by Management.
NRC chairman Michael Curley said that the proposal was designed to encourage counties to recruit referees at a younger age.
An upper age limit for inter-county referees is in place, stipulating that they must retire at the age of 50. Donegal's Jimmy White is the latest to be forced out on age grounds, having refereed his last game in the Derry-Tyrone McKenna Cup final earlier this month.