By Kevin Regan
On Monday night, like many Carlow Hurling followers I made the trek to Myshall to see Naomh Eoin take on Mount Leinster Rangers in the Kilkenny Junior League Semi Final.
Never before had I seen such a crowd at a game involving two Carlow club hurling sides, apart from county finals, although many supporters probably traveled in anticipation of more fireworks after the ugly scenes in last years Carlow Senior Hurling Semi-Final.
However, what unfolded was rather refreshing and something that you wouldn’t see all that often in Carlow club games- A good open free flowing game of Hurling.
In Carlow we are used to games ending with final scorelines of 2-8 to 10 points or the equivalent, but the 3-12 to 1-14 full time score in which Naomh Eoin were victorious tells it’s own story.
I believe that this was largely down to manner in which the game was officiated by Kilkenny man Ollie O’Neill who only blew the whistle when a foul was blatantly obvious.
And most Kilkenny referees in general will let the game go, which results in high scoring tallies almost every game.
In the Carlow club scene, the lions share of referees are all too whistle happy and I feel that if they weren’t as fond of the whistle, then higher scores and indeed higher quality hurling in general would transpire.
The reason why I think officials are blowing all too often, is because they are used having an assessor in the stand who marks them on their performances, and for that reason common sense doesn’t always prevail with officials having no other option but to take every borderline ruling as gospel.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how difficult a job it is to be a referee and it’s a position that I don’t envy, because the amount of abuse is ridiculous at times for very little reward.
However if you look at the way established referees like Brian Gavin officiate in comparison to up and coming referees, you will notice that Gavin lets a game flow a lot more because he is refereeing the game a long time.
The new comers feel a lot more pressure because they are trying to establish themselves as top Referees, and to do so they must impress the assessor who will judge everything to the exact letter of the law, at the expense of common sense at times.
Up to about a decade ago in Carlow, outside referees were brought in to referee big club games and those in the knockout stages, with the likes of Dickie Murphy and Pat Moran regularly coming across the border to take charge.
While I would be in favour of keeping it local and rewarding referees in Carlow with the big games internally, I think it’s something that could be still looked at for the knockout stages especially.
The argument is that Wexford and Laois would probably not return the favour by bringing in our referees to officiate in their club games which is also a fair point.
But I just hope from now on that games are allowed to flow in Carlow, which can only improve the standard and quality of hurling, because there are players within the county that are as good as anyone in Kilkenny.
If this is the case then we can look forward to more games like what Naomh Eoin and Mount Leinster Rangers produced this week, so here’s hoping!