'I made the correct decision' says ref who sent off Horgan
REFEREE James McGrath is standing by his decision to send off Cork's Patrick Horgan in the Munster hurling final two weeks ago, despite it being overturned by the GAA's Central Hearings Committee last week.
McGrath sent off the Cork full-forward on the stroke of half-time in the defeat to Limerick after his hurley made contact with Paudie O'Brien's helmet.
Horgan was cleared to play in today's All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Kilkenny in Thurles after successfully arguing that the incident had been accidental.
The Westmeath official was heavily criticised for the dismissal, despite the fact that he clearly implemented the rules, and in particular rule 5.2, which states that to strike or "to attempt to strike an opponent with a hurley, with minimal force" is a sending-off offence.
"I can only base my decision on a split second and from what I saw at the time I felt it was dangerous and I feel I made the correct decision," McGrath told the Sunday Independent in his first public comments since the controversy erupted.
"The number one priority for me and any referee in the country, be it club or inter-county, is the welfare and protection of the players. I'm not there to control the personal interests of 44,000 supporters."
McGrath, who took charge of last year's All-Ireland final replay between Kilkenny and Galway, also admitted that he has been taken aback at the personalised nature of the criticism, including snide comments about the ability of a referee from Westmeath – a lower-tier hurling county – to officiate at major matches.
"I'm very proud of the club I'm from – Turin – and I'm very proud to be from Westmeath," he said. "For some people to make comments about where you are from, or questioning what would you know about hurling being from a certain place, is wrong. I can tell you we are every bit as passionate about hurling here as others from the more successful counties. And even though we might be outside the top teams, it's not from the lack of trying."
McGrath also said he would quit refereeing if he made a major error in a big game.
Despite the CHC's decision to rescind the red card, McGrath was publicly backed by Pat McEnaney, chairman of the National Referees' Committee, last week, who said the referee had been "spot on".