Fergal Horgan to referee All-Ireland SHC Final
By John Harrington
The GAA has confirmed the referees for the 2017 GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior and Minor Championship Finals, with the honour of refereeing the senior final going to Fergal Horgan.
The Tipperary man will take charge of the clash between Galway and Waterford, while Sean Cleere of Kilkenny will officiate the Electric Ireland Minor Final between Galway and Cork.
This will be Horgan’s first time to referee the All-Ireland Senior Final, but the Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams club-man has previously refereed the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final in 2014, the All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling Final in 2015, and this year’s All-Ireland Senior Club Final.
In what’s been a busy 2017 for Horgan, he also refereed the Munster SHC Final between Cork and Limerick, the Leinster SHC Semi-Final between Wexford and Kilkenny, and the All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final clash between Kilkenny and Waterford.
A referee since 2009, Horgan has risen rapidly through the ranks and is relishing the challenge of officiating on the biggest day of the hurling year.
“I'm looking forward to it massively, it's the pinnacle of every referee's career to do the All-Ireland,” Horgan told GAA.ie.
“I'm delighted to get it and I'll prepare for it the same as I always do and treat it with the respect it deserves.”
Horgan was a talented hurler himself in his day, playing in goal on the 1996 All-Ireland winning Tipperary minor hurling team and also winning Munster Championships in the U-21 and Intermediate grades with the Premier County.
When his own club career ended in 2009, he immediately made the switch to refereeing.
“It was a friend of mine, the former West Tipperary Board Chairman, Billy Ryan, who approached me and asked me to referee,” says Horgan.
“He thought that more former players should take up refereeing to help improve the standard so I did it for him, really, when he asked me and I suppose it's worked out for me.
“I'd encourage other former players to follow the same path because I really think it's the way forward.”
Horgan believes his experience of having hurled at a high level himself has been of massive help to him as a referee.
“Yeah, definitely,” he says. “When I started refereeing I had the experience of playing inter-county hurling myself so I knew exactly what was going on and what the landscape was. That was a big help for me, that I knew how players were thinking.
“Having played at a high level also helps massively with dealing with the occasion as a referee.
“I played in the 1996 All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final replay which was held before the infamous 1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Final replay between Mayo and Meath and Croke Park was packed that day.
“To have experienced playing in front of that sort of crowd, obviously it's a big help going out refereeing in front of a crowd of 40, 50 or 60 thousand. Now I'll be refereeing in front of my biggest crowd yet, over 80,000.
“It's a great honour not just for myself but for my club, Knockavilla Kickhams. Eamonn Browne has already refereed the Camogie All-Ireland and now I'll have refereed the Senior Hurling Final so that's unique I'd say.”
Cork’s Colm Lyons will be the standby referee for the All-Ireland SHC Final with Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow) as the other linesman while the sideline official will be Johnny Murphy (Limerick).
Fergal Horgan’s umpires on the day will be John Ryan (Cashel King Cormacs) Paul Ryan, Mick Butler, and Sean Bradshaw (All Knockavilla Donaskeigh Kickhams).
Sean Cleere, who will be officiating the Minor match, is a member of the O'Loughlin Gaels club in Kilkenny.
In 2017 Sean has already refereed the Senior Club Semi-Final between St Thomas’ and Ballyea, Allianz Hurling League games between Cork and Dublin & Kerry and Offaly, the Leinster Hurling Championship clash between Meath and Kerry & Westmeath and Offaly.
Cleere also refereed the All-Ireland U21 Final in 2016 between Waterford and Galway.
Antrim’s Colum Cunning will be the standby referee, the other linesman is James Clarke (Cavan) and the sideline official will be John O’Brien (Laois).
Cleere’s umpires on the day will be Mick Nolan, Colman Loughnane, Seamie Cummins and Bryan Skehan (all O’Loughlin Gaels).