League axe spells end for Sludden top-level career

Colm Keys

Martin Sludden's career at the highest level would appear to be over after he was dropped from the panel of inter-county referees for next year's football league.

Sludden (pictured right) – the man at the centre of the biggest refereeing controversy in modern times – has already been removed from the panel of championship referees, which was condensed from 18 to 16 earlier this year.

Now he has been informed that he won't be on the panel of 50 referees on duty for the league, which starts in February.

It effectively means that, more than two years on from the controversial end to the 2010 Leinster final, Sludden's time as an inter-county referee is at an end.

His decision not to disallow a clearly illegal Meath goal from Joe Sheridan late in the game denied Louth a first Leinster title in 53 years and engulfed the GAA in a major controversy.

He was retained for the two subsequent leagues and the 2011 championship, but with the national referees committee keen to reduce numbers to give fewer referees more games, he has now been deemed surplus to requirements at national level.

The Tyrone official is understood to be the biggest casualty as the referees committee seeks to tighten its group in both codes.

The referee at the centre of last month's Galway hurling final controversy, Eoin Shaughnessy, is understood to be one of those released from the hurling panel, which has been cut down to 45.

Galway Hurling Board chairman Joe Byrne felt compelled to defend his county's record on discipline last week after footage of the final, in which St Thomas' triumphed over Loughrea, made its way on to YouTube showing a Loughrea player going unpunished for a number of wild swings of his hurley that connected with opponents.

The Galway final and the decision to dispense with Shaughnessy from the inter-county panel are not thought to be linked.

Shaughnessy mostly took charge of games in lower-profile competitions.

The national referees committee may continue their policy of reducing panel numbers to give the top referees more game time.

Referees chairman Pat McEnaney is a keen believer in this policy and has hinted that numbers will drop again in future years.

The policy of previous committees has been to keep numbers high and spread opportunities to give up-and-coming officials more exposure.

Meanwhile, Dr Crokes must plan without Eoin Brosnan for their trip to Ruislip on Sunday week when they face the London champions, Tir Chonaill Gaels, in the All-Ireland club SFC quarter-final.

Brosnan hobbled off in the first half of last Sunday's Munster club SFC final victory over Castlehaven after aggravating a calf injury which he originally sustained in Kerry's defeat to Donegal last August.

Brosnan will have to sit out training for a month and even if Dr Crokes win in London, he faces a battle to be fit for a possible All-Ireland club semi-final in February.