Tyrone whistler Sean Hurson among candidates to end wait for All-Ireland final referee from the North
WHILE news that Tyrone's Sean Hurson has been appointed standby referee for Saturday's All-Ireland final has been welcomed, the confirmation that Meath's David Coldrick will officiate in the game means that it's now 37 years since a whistler from the north took charge of the national showpiece.
The last northerner to throw the ball in for the Sam Maguire decider was Antrim's John Gough who battled to keep the lid on a hot-tempered final between Dublin and Galway in 1983. The Dubs won the game by two points despite having Brian Mullins, Roy Hazley and Kieran Duff sent off. Gough also dismissed Galway's Tomas Tierney and in the aftermath both county boards were fined and several players suspended.
Three Ulster referees have officiated since that turbulent affair. Monaghan's Pat McEnaney took charge of the 1996, 2000 and 2004 finals, Cavan's Brian Crowe held the whistle for the 2006 decider and, since then, his county colleague Joe McQuillan has taken charge of the 2011, 2013 and 2017 finals.
Galbally clubman Hurson, who officiated at this year's Connacht final between Galway and Mayo, is rated as a future All-Ireland final referee but there are several other referee's from the six counties who must feature in discussions.
Down's Ciaran Branagan officiated in the Dublin-Cavan semi-final earlier this month and the Dublin-Laois Leinster semi-final earlier this season. Fellow Mourne County referee Paul Faloon is also an experienced inter-county official now and has been named as the referee for Saturday's All-Ireland U20 final between Dublin and Galway. Derry official Barry Cassidy, another experienced operator who has refereed at provincial final and Super 8 level, is the standby referee for that game.
The man with the whistle on Saturday evening will be a familiar face to all GAA fans. Meath's David Coldrick takes charge of his fourth All-Ireland final. The Blackhall Gaels clubman has previously taken charge of the 2007, 2010 and 2015 deciders and edges ahead of McQuillan as the most experienced official currently on the circuit.
Coldrick's appointment means that Leinster referees have taken charge of 10 finals since 2000. Ulster refs have officiated in five, Munster four and there's been just one from Connacht – Marty Duffy of Sligo took charge of the 2009 final between Cork and Kerry.