Saturday 23 March 2019

McGrath sees red over 'mind-boggling' snub


James McGrath is adamant that he "won't be changing my mind" to retire from inter-county refereeing after being controversially overlooked for the All-Ireland SHC final.

The Westmeath whistler, 41, resigned from the national referees' panel yesterday after the Central Referees' Appointments Committee awarded this year's decider to James Owens of Wexford.

"James Owens is a great friend of mine, so it's not that I'm throwing the baby out with the water or whatever they say," he told The Herald.

"Maybe people might that think now," added the two-time All-Ireland referee, "but a lot of people would have installed me as being the favourite to get the final. It's bad enough not getting the appointment, but not being involved on the day as part of the team is really mind-boggling."

That omission is what has compelled McGrath into early retirement, nine years before the cut-off age of 50 for inter-county referees.

"It's not exactly a kneejerk reaction to not refereeing in the final but, possibly more to the point, I'm not involved in any capacity in the match, be it standby referee or linesman on the day," the Turin clubman explained.

"Even the fact that we'd five games this year, they all went very well, the Munster final included and All-Ireland quarter-final (between Limerick and Kilkenny). And it's unprecedented, probably, that a referee who does a semi-final gets the final."

McGrath set out as a referee on the Westmeath circuit in 1996, while still a teenager. He was added to the Leinster panel in 1998 and the national panel in 2000.

The high points of his career were being appointed to take charge of two All-Ireland SHC final replays - between Kilkenny and Galway in 2012 and Clare and Cork the following year.

But it was his big ambition to get the 'first shot' at a final. "And the point is, after the games went so well for us this year, I don't envisage I'd get as good a run of matches like that again," he said.

There is a tendency for Croke Park to pick a quarter-final referee as their final man, and McGrath emerged as favourite after his handling of the Limerick/Kilkenny clash.

"But I'm not so sure what Croke Park might have thought of that (performance)," he mused. "I think they were going looking for red cards in that game or something. That's where there's a difference of opinion but I haven't been told that - I'm kind of out in the dark."

As for changing his mind, he insisted: "If they can do that this year, they won't get a chance to do that again next year because I won't be there for them to do that to me. And I hope they don't do it to others as well."

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