Players put league disappointment fully behind them
Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball
We have had two rounds of the county football championships. It was time for the players to tear up the script and put to bed the disappointment of league relegation, and this they managed with a hugely-exciting weekend of football.
Going into the opening round one did not know what to really expect but we had our quota of surprises. As a result, the tempo of the game was really stepped up seven days later, as the wounded warriors attempted to bounce back.
Last weekend one needed many results to go a certain way to maintain the tight group situation.
This was how it transpired with only holders St. Anne's and Shelmaliers maintaining their one hundred per cent records.
The results gave the game of football a much-needed lift, as the groups are so tight that the third round of games once the championship resumes will take on a whole new significance, as teams continue their battle for places in the knockout stages.
The season is young but already football has been given a lift, and this is coupled with the fine opening round provincial championship victory over Westmeath, where the Wexford Minors shone in the closing quarter when it looked as if the game was slipping away from them.
It's still hard to fathom which sides will make it through to the quarter-final stages, but those teams still awaiting their first victory will be conscious of a pending struggle with relegation.
Granted, there are still three games left to play but with two successive defeats they are left with a real battle on their hands.
And with the third round which was scheduled for the weekend of May 17 now postponed, it looks like it will take a while before the contestants are known.
While clubs will have to await their fate for many weeks, for referees the grading of the men in black is awaited with great interest, with lists of gradings now being sent forward to County Board for ratification.
One can expect some surprises with some names making their way to the top echelon while others slip down a grading or two.
A referee, let me tell you, hasn't too many friends in the heat of battle, but it's their interpretation of rules that is the cause of most amusement particularly among those on the sidelines.
Having covered so many games over successive weekends it's the glaring lack of consistency in the usage of the black card that is leading to most controversy.
Black cards have been issued for what I would term innocuous fouls, such as a simple push, while a penalty decision of referee John Diskin in the Gusserane versus St. James' Senior football game bordered on the farcical.
In my opinion the St. James' player's swivel and dive would have done justice to another arena.
Later in Bellefield, referee Seán Whelan got the correct call for his penalty decision to Horeswood, but given the nature of the foul close to goal, when the Horeswood attacker was pulled back with a goal chance, one wondered why no black card was issued given the black card in O'Kennedy Park for a simple push.
The referee has umpires, of course, and the sight of those large and impassive men in their white coats must be a great consolation to him.
He has his linesmen too, agile, young fellows who gather round him in a comradely fashion at half-time and discuss everything under the sun except the glaring errors of judgement they are firmly convinced he has committed during the first-half, and which, when it comes to their turn to be referees, would never possibly in any circumstances be committed by them.
But for many the referee is the enemy. The enemy is the man with the power, he is the main target for those on the hills. He may not be referred to as the man in black, he may be called 'curly' if he is bald.
There are even times when the onlooker takes a deep interest in his welfare and implores him to see a good optician or stop damaging his lungs by blowing too often on his whistle.
On the pitch itself it was a good weekend for football, but for the enemy he may have to wait another few hours (maybe weeks) before knowing his status.
Right now the referees are awaiting the verdict of the men at the top table, while the verdict of the man on the hill will also be awaited with interest once the football championship resumes.