The burning issue is the standard of local refereeing
Back in January, 2002, Wexford referees entered a civil war with the G.A.A. in the county, withdrawing their services from all adult games in protest at the manner in which a Junior footballer had a suspension overturned by the Board's Disciplinary Committee the previous November.
The matter arose out of a Clonard/Sarsfields Junior football final in which a Sarsfields player was dismissed but later saw his sending off and suspension overturned, which freed him for the Senior hurling championship clash with Faythe Harriers.
Clonard, incidentally, won the game by some six points, but it was the actions of the County Disciplinary Committee that led to the referees' subsequent strike.
But now, some 14 years later, the referees are once again the centre of attention. With temperatures rising as the championship knock-out stages lead to more competitive and physical clashes, the men in black were under the spotlight last weekend instead of the actual games.
But the burning issue is the standard of local refereeing. There is a glaring lack of consistency in the interpretation of many of the rules, which became more and more noticeable with each passing game over the past number of weekends.
Technology does not compensate for bad refereeing. In the G.A.A. we have no playbacks, not even Hawk Eye at domestic level, but surely there is a standard set for the implementation of many of the rules, such as the additional time, which was somewhat bizarre in Innovate Wexford Park over the weekend, while the 13 meter rule for bringing the ball forward for dissent is surely one of the more abused rules.
There is also the need for a more professional approach towards umpires and linesmen.
Recently at an Under-21 hurling final an experienced referee failed to appear to act as linesman, yet he took charge of an important game that following weekend, no disciplinary action being considered worthwhile for his lack of respect towards an under-age county final.
The role of umpires and linesmen has long been a topic of discussion, but the usage of experienced referees on the sideline for such a high profile stage of the county championships, would surely save the G.A.A. from further embarrassment.
Now one will be watching the appointment of referees for future games with lots more interest for there is a need to define what qualities a referee should reach before being handed the whistle for such high profile knock-out games.
Last weekend the red card was brandished to the light more often than one would accept. Referee Brendan Martin dismissed seven players in the Crossabeg-Ballymurn v. Rathgarogue-Cushinstown Intermediate hurling quarter-final. One Crossabeg-Ballymurn player and two from their opponents received red during the course of the game, while four Rathgarogue-Cushinstown players were brandished red cards following the final whistle.
Referee Sean Whelan dismissed three players, two Shamrocks and one Oylegate-Glenbrien during their Intermediate quarter-final clash, while Justin Heffernan brandished one red to a Buffers Alley player in their Senior clash with Glynn-Barntown.
But what has enraged many clubs is the additional time rule. In the Faythe Harriers v. St. Anne's Senior hurling relegation play-off, referee David O'Leary allowed just one minute and 35 seconds, this after five second-half substitutions and lengthy injury stoppages, and even much time wasting during the closing five minutes.
Twenty-four hours later, referee Barry Redmond, in the Ferns v. St. Martin's quarter-final, allowed four minutes and 20 seconds additional first half time, with six minutes and 20 seconds additional time at the end of 60 minutes, with the Ferns winning goal coming five minutes and 30 seconds into additional time.
One can argue the merits of additional time but it's hard to dispute the serious discrepancies between each match official.
One is not saying that the referees always get it wrong, but the referees in arriving at additional time to be allowed surely have many questions to answer in what was a difficult weekend for the men in black.
Referee Barry Redmond's inconsistency through the game leaving him on a rating of 2 out of 5.
Little was seen of Justin Heffernan in an efficient display of whistling of the Glynn-Barntown v. Buffers Alley tie, with 4 out of 5 going to him.
Referee David O'Leary was all at sea in the Harriers v. St. Anne's relegation play-off, with 2 out of 5.
Referee Gearoid McGrath was consistent all through the Blackwater v. Oulart The Ballagh Intermediate hurling play-off leaving him with a rating of 4 out of 5.
We look forward to a reaction from the men in black this weekend.