Ref Murphy puts decision on hold as Kelly rejoins national panel
TWO-TIME All-Ireland senior hurling final referee Barry Kelly has rejoined the national referees' panel after taking a break last summer due to family commitments.
But it is not yet clear if top Wexford official Dickie Murphy, who was surprisingly omitted from the championship panel last summer, will be part of it.
Due to the introduction of a new age limit of 50 this year, this is the last season that Murphy will qualify to officiate at national level and he described himself yesterday as "still undecided".
But the Enniscorthy official is still operating at the top level. He refereed the Leinster club SHC semi-final between Ballyboden St Enda's and O'Loughlin Gaels before Christmas and he is refereeing his first inter-county match of the season in the Kehoe Cup this weekend.
However, to qualify for the national league panel, referees have to pass a battery of pre-season fitness and rules tests.
They took place last weekend, but there is another session of assessments due in the coming weeks that Murphy could yet attend if he wants to give it one last year.
Westmeath whistler Kelly refereed the 2006 and 2008 All-Ireland SHC finals and caused a surprise by taking a break last summer. He had refereed throughout the 2010 NHL campaign and made the cut for the newly shortened championship panel.
He had already officiated at the Cork versus Tipperary Munster championship quarter-final before dropping out, citing family commitments after his wife gave birth to twins. But he is now back on the national panel and would be expected to get some of the plum ties in the upcoming league.
Kelly has 10 more years of eligibility, but the newly introduced age limit of 50 has ruled out Gerry Kinneavy and Aidan Mangan this year and will also force top football ref Pat McEnaney to quit at the end of this season.
The GAA is set to unveil a new 'strip' for its referees in the coming weeks, their first change of livery since 2007 and it is also looking at the possibility of ditching their umpires' white coats, though this would not happen until next year's championship at the earliest.