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Donal Óg Cusack Calls For GAA Rule Change To Accommodate 'Excellent' Hurling Final Ref

Donal Óg Cusack Calls For GAA Rule Change To Accommodate 'Excellent' Hurling Final Ref
By Gary Connaughton Updated
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This afternoon's All-Ireland hurling final was a feast for the senses, with both Limerick and Kilkenny serving up an exhilarating clash at Croke Park.

While the final scoreline might suggest that this was a one-sided affair, the truth is that the contest was still very much in the balance for the vast majority of the game. The extra bit of quality in John Kiely's team made the difference in the end.

If the two teams involved deserve a huge amount of credit for the spectacle they produced, the same must be said of referee John Keenan. He certainly contributed to the action on the pitch, allowing the game to flow while also keeping a lid on some of the overly physical aspects of the match.

This was actually the Wicklow native's final inter-county match, with GAA rules stating he must retire from the top level after reaching his 50th birthday. Some believe such a move would be a mistake.

Donal Óg Cusack wants GAA change to help hurling final referee

In a time when referees are routinely criticised, it was refreshing to hear John Keenan being given so much credit on this occasion. The officials certainly play a big part in deciding the flow of a hurling match, something he did expertly this afternoon.


He knows all too well about the pressure of the role, having faced some scrutiny for his performance in the Munster final between Limerick and Clare in 2022. He did not ref another game in last year's championship after that particular fixture.

He has certainly bounced back brilliantly in 2023, with some believing he should be allowed to continue in the sport despite this afternoon supposedly marking his last game at inter-county level.


Speaking on RTÉ after the game, Donal Óg Cusack was full of praise for Keenan and called on the GAA to change their laws in order to allow top class officials such as him continue in the sport beyond their 50th birthday.

I thought John Keenan had an excellent game.

I could of write off the last 15 or 20 minutes, the game was over at that stage. I thought in terms of the overall game when it was in the melting pot, and there was a ferocious tempo to that first half.

It's such a hard job to be a referee in hurling. I thought he did an excellent job.

You can go on about comebacks and resilience, last year John Keenan refereed the Munster final and there was a bit of controversy afterwards, we're all aware of that. There was seven more championship games that took place, he didn't get one of those games. You talk about resilience to come back.

The other point I'd make as well, I believe now that because he is past the 50 mark that he is forced to retire. We haven't got that many good referees in hurling and it's a really challenging thing to be a referee in hurling. It strikes me that we should be doing everything we can to hold onto the likes of him.

Back to the question you asked me, I thought he was very good today.

The law which required inter-county GAA referees to retire at 50 was introduced in 2011, with the move undertaken in order to reflect the increasing physical demands of the position.

However, you would think that exceptions could be made to this rule. Simple steps such as physical examinations could easily determine what officials could continue in the game beyond the current threshold.


With hurling always crying out for top class referees, it is a move the GAA should consider.

SEE ALSO: Brits React As Gripping Hurling Final Broadcast Live On BBC

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