Our man in the middle
Owens will referee second All-Ireland final on the trot
Askamore-Kilrush clubman, James Owens, has been announced as the referee to take charge of Sunday's Kilkenny versus Tipperary All-Ireland Senior hurling final in Croke Park.
Owens, now the leading hurling official in the country, will be taking charge of his third All-Ireland Senior final and his second on the trot, having officiated at major games in both Leinster and Munster during what has been an outstanding career for the man in the middle.
Having come through the under-age ranks both at club and inter-county levels, Owens will be refereeing back-to-back All-Ireland finals.
This in itself is an unusal feat, since it's well known that from the small pool of Senior inter-county referees, those in charge of appointments recognise the contribution of as many as possible when making a final decision.
After the controversy surrounding refereeing in both All-Ireland semi-finals this year, the G.A.A. was always likely to opt for an experienced match official for the game's showpiece.
Owens, following his excellent handling of last year's final involving Limerick and Galway, fitted the bill, so it was no surprise when he was announced for the game.
The Askamore-Kilrush clubman has refereed all major finals in the county in both hurling and football and carries vast experience into this much-anticipated final.
He has also refereed the All-Ireland Minor final of 2007, the All-Ireland Under-21 final in 2008, and the AIB All-Ireland Senior Club final of 2015.
In this year's championship, James refereed the All-Ireland Senior hurling quarter-final between Kilkenny and Cork, and two Munster championship games between Clare v. Limerick, and Waterford v. Clare.
There was a lot of talk about refereeing following the two All-Ireland semi-finals, much of which was highlighted in Brian Gavin's national newspaper column.
The former All-Ireland referee highlighted many issues, questioning the experience of many match officials for high-profile games, while also illuminating the fact that Owens - given his experience in the small pool of inter-county referees - was favourite to take the whistle for the final.
The appoinment of Owens has put all that to bed. He has a very cool approach to games, best summed up with the absence of controversy following last year's final where he proved excellent in his handling of the game.
Owens will need his officials to be sharp for the game, and avoid any of the semi-final issues. Tipperary had three goals disallowed, coupled with the late sideline incident in the Kilkenny v. Limerick clash, where the Shannonsiders were denied a late '65 which could have brought the game to extra-time.
Given the manner of his refereeing, it will be expected that Owens will lay the law down early, which may include the flashing of a couple of yellow cards, but thereafter he will allow the game to flow, ensuring a free-flowing 70 minutes of hurling.
Owens' umpires will be James Dunbar and the referee's young brother, David (both Askamore), along with fellow refereers Joe Kelly (Naomh Eanna), and Ian Plunkett (Marshalstown-Castledockrell).
Carlow's Paud O'Dwyer will be the stand-by referee.
A Wexford native, O'Dwyer played football with his native county and played club hurling and football with Rathgarogue-Cushinstown.
Now resident in Carlow, O';Dwyer won Senior football titles with Palatine.
He has already officiated at All-Ireland Minor and Under-21 hurling finals, while has taken charge of championship games in both Leinster and Munster, including the Limerick v. Tipperary decider in the latter province this year.