THE GAA have moved to ease the pressure on referees by ensuring that, barring special circumstances, they will not be appointed for games where their native counties could meet the winners.
The policy has delayed the return of Martin Sludden (Tyrone) to championship action as he had been pencilled in to referee the Cavan v Donegal Ulster quarter-final next Sunday. But with the winners due to face Tyrone, Marty Duffy (Sligo) has been appointed instead. Sludden will be linesman and stand-by referee.
Cavan referee Joe McQuillan was due to take charge of Tyrone v Monaghan last Sunday but was switched to Dublin v Laois when Michael Duffy (Sligo) had to withdraw due to injury. The fact that Cavan could be playing the Tyrone/Monaghan winners in the semi-final was also taken into consideration in switching McQuillan to Croke Park.
Curiously, Pat McEnaney was linesman and stand-by referee for the Dublin v Laois Leinster quarter-final clash despite his brother Seamus being Meath manager. As it happened, Meath lost the first game to Kildare but, had they won, Pat McEnaney would have been actively involved in a game where the winners were due to play a side managed by his brother.
Sludden has not refereed a championship game since making the controversial decision to allow Meath's last-minute goal in last year's Leinster final against Louth, but stayed on the elite panel.
He is expected to be appointed for one of the first-round qualifier games as the weekend of June 25/26 will be the busiest of the football championship to date. Two Leinster semi-finals, a Connacht and Ulster semi-final and eight qualifiers are on the schedule.