Tuesday 16 October 2018

Ref McGrath quits over All-Ireland final snub

Angry Westmeath man feels he has been 'betrayed by the Association'

McGrath’s last big game was the Limerick-Kilkenny All-Ireland quarter-final in Semple Stadium in mid-July, which passed off without any major incident. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
McGrath’s last big game was the Limerick-Kilkenny All-Ireland quarter-final in Semple Stadium in mid-July, which passed off without any major incident. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The GAA's system for appointing referees for All-Ireland finals will come under close scrutiny after stinging criticism from James McGrath as he announced that he was quitting for good after being overlooked for any role in the Galway-Limerick showdown on Sunday week.

The Westmeath man, who refereed the All-Ireland final replays in 2012 (Kilkenny v Galway) and 2013 (Clare v Cork), lost out to James Owens (Wexford), who also took charge of the Galway-Kilkenny final in 2015.

The linesmen roles have been handed to Seán Cleere (Kilkenny) and Fergal Horgan (Tipperary), who officiated at last year's final.

"It is with a heavy heart that I make this decision but I feel the decision has ultimately been made by CRAC (Central Referees' Appointments' Committee) for me to resign from the national referees' panel with immediate effect," McGrath posted on Facebook.

He accused CRAC of "a lack of confidence, trust and integrity" and said he felt "betrayed by the Association".

He also said that his decision to quit after 18 years on the national referees panel was "final and irreversible".

McGrath's last big game was the Limerick-Kilkenny All-Ireland quarter-final in Semple Stadium in mid-July, which passed off without any major incident.

That would have led him to believe that he was the top contender for the final as the pattern over many years has been for one of the two quarter-final referees to land the plum All-Ireland job.

Horgan refereed the Clare-Wexford quarter-final this year but since he took charge of the Galway-Waterford final last year, McGrath looked to be in a better position this time.

However, he was not only overlooked for the main role, he wasn't even included on the panel, losing out to Horgan, who refereed the Galway v Clare replay last Sunday, and Cleere. Horgan will also act as the standby referee.

It now remains to be seen if the GAA will offer any explanation as to why the trend of appointing a referee from the quarter-finals has not applied this year and also why McGrath was ignored.

It's certainly a break with tradition, which has clearly angered McGrath.

His high-profile departure will bring renewed focus on the appointment system, which has come in for criticism in the past.

"I have had a brilliant 18 years refereeing at the top level. This is not a decision I have taken lightly but it's a decision that ultimately has been made for me," McGrath said.

"The general feeling among a lot of the public and in my own club and county was that I had a good chance of refereeing the final.

"It's hugely disappointing not to be involved in the All-Ireland final which is such a special occasion," he said.

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Irish Independent

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