Hurling refereeing


Following Barry Kelly’s ‘performance’ on Sunday I got to thinking (again) about something which has crossed my mind a fair bit over the last few years …. That for a long time now the game of hurling has been poorly reffed.

I have watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) many games in recent years – but sometimes it seems like the ref has lost his whistle. I think a culture has developed in hurling where the ref will only blow for a foul if someone is almost killed (a bit like a Dublin footballer trying to get a free). It seems it has become disrespectful to the religion of hurling to stop the game for a free. The ref has become part of the machismo – ah get up you only lost a finger type thing – sometimes players even seem afraid to be awarded a free. It’s like soccer turned on its head. The likes of Brian Gavin (who didn’t even blow the whistle when he got split) seem to be challenging the players ‘jaysus do you expect a free for that?’ So this style of refereeing has been lauded – ah he’s great, keeps the game flowing etc – and now everyone is reffing that way.

I think Kilkenny were the first team that realised the boundaries could be pushed … and pushed , and pushed … and they pushed them. The aura of the Cats and a great deal of pressure exerted from the line too saw them assume a Ferguson like hold on officials. How dare you penalise our team kind of thing. Now I would say you could count 25+ fouls almost every game that are not given.

For a long time now hurling has been reffed with as much observation of the rules as a bare knuckle brawl in Rathkeale. As long as the game flows and nobody gets killed or badly injured then the rules are that there are no rules except to blow that whistle as little as possible.

Nobody wants a free every ten seconds but maybe things are gone too far the other way and a few whistle happy games might bring the rule book back into play. Or maybe the macho small ball aficionados like things just the way they are ….


Agree with this. Hurling can be difficult to watch at times because of refs. One minute a lad will have four guys hanging out of him and be blown for steps, and the next a hand on the shoulder is enough for a free.

It seems more often than not you have to be actually murdered before you’ll get a free and even then, only when you’ve provided a death certificate. It’s great for the traditionalists because they get to remind us how manly they are but Christ it’s hard too watch and really does ruin games. The refs need to ref the bloody rules.


Doesn’t help that the pundits on TSG constantly give out to refs for ‘not letting the game flow’ when they do enforce the rules of the game. The ref’s job is not to let the game flow, it’s to make sure players play within the rules of the game. Some commentators and the TSG gang should be reminded of that.

On another note, my young lad was giving out about having a goal disallowed for over-carrying recently and told me after that he ‘only took 6 steps’. To be fair to him he’s watching lads on the telly taking 7 or 8 all the time without a whistle being heard.


Mentioning Kilkenny, I honestly believe Brian Cody is responsible for the development of “let the fouls flow” refereeing. Kilkenny had developed a style of impeding opposition players by almost discreet jersey tugs and arm and hurley holding, which gave them a decided advantage over teams which fouled in a more open or careless manner. Cody was constantly in the ear of the linesman and referee over his own guys being penalised and the others not being penalised until the referees eventually bought into his mantra for the sake a peace. The association, as a whole, bows to Cody, which is not a good thing for hurling.


Do you think it’s that black-and-white, @Magpie?


Black and amber, no?


Well, it’s grown a bit muddy because so many other teams have bough into it!

Still, it’s not up to the referee to “let the game flow”; the referee’s job is to penalise fouls which give an unfair advantage. If referees did that consistently, then we would see real flowing hurling after a few games, because no one would want to get sent off for repeated offences.

I won’t hold my breath, though. At the start of the Premiership last year, referees were instructed to give penalties for holding in the square as a corner was being taken. One referee did the job he was instructed to do, but no one else did. After a few weeks, it was all forgotten about.