Lyons' call breaks 'big four' control
Cork referee Colm Lyons has finally broken the monopoly enjoyed by four hurling referees over recent seasons.
The Nemo Rangers man takes charge of the Galway-Tipperary Allianz hurling League final in the Gaelic Grounds next Sunday, an appointment which will be welcomed by the wider hurling fraternity where there has been dismay over the dominance of Brian Gavin (Offaly), Barry Kelly (Westmeath), James Owens (Wexford) and James McGrath (Westmeath).
Between them, they were appointed for 24 of the 28 biggest games (All-Ireland finals, semi-finals, quarter-finals, and Leinster and Munster finals, league finals) over the past three years. That's almost 86 per cent of the plum appointments and, when extended to five years, they have refereed 75 per cent of the biggest games.
That has frustrated other referees who have privately spoken of a 'private club', reserved for the 'big four'. They have refereed every All-Ireland final since 2011, including replays in 2012-2013-2014.
Johnny Ryan (Tipperary) was the only referee outside the top four to referee a league final over the past five seasons.
Lyons refereed no game in 1A this year, but was appointed for the Tipperary-Offaly quarter-final. Galway's last experience with him was in last year's Leinster semi-final against Offaly, during which he sent off Conor Cooney (Galway) and Colin Egan (Offaly) on straight red cards. Cooney later had it rescinded on appeal.