By Niall Gartland
OFFICIATING an All-Ireland final is an honour bestowed on a very select group of referees, and Galbally native Sean Hurson said he was hugely privileged to get the call up for last Sunday’s showdown between Kerry and Galway.
The first man from Tyrone to referee the big day since Paddy Devlin in 1974, Hurson said there was an abiding sense of pride in representing his club, county and family. He also said he felt relief that the day had gone off without a hitch.
“It’s a huge honour to represent your club, county and family on the biggest weekend of the year, but you’re also flying the flag for referees across Ireland, not only on the national scene.
“It’s a massive responsibility so you prepare as best you can and thankfully we’re on the right side of it now.”
While Hurson was in the spotlight in front of over 80,000 attendees in Croke Park as well as a peak viewing audience of more than a million people at home, there’s a considerable amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
Since receiving notice of his appointment a couple of weeks ago, he travelled to Dublin on multiple occasions with his team of umpires, including for a seminar and training session last Wednesday.
Hurson said the enormity of the occasion hit home during the pre-match national anthem, but once the ball was thrown in, he knew he had a job to do.
“You have blot everything out. It’s an All-Ireland final so there are a lot of extras attached, and when I was standing in the field with my three other officials and the national anthem, then you realise the enormity of the occasion.
“I sung the national anthem as a proud Tyrone man and I had tingles down my back, it’s something I’ll never forget, but come the throw-in, all we’re thinking about is the next foul and the next play.
“A lot of the time we’re lost in the moment and focused on a decision, we’re really not there to watch or enjoy the game.
“We’re totally focused on aggressive and technical fouls and we have to adjudicate on a second-by-second business.
“But full credit to both sets of players, they knew what way I was refereeing the game, they gave me respect and I gave them respect as well. There were minimal aggressive fouls that warranted anything more than a yellow.”
It’s been quite a journey for Hurson who had already been selected to referee some of the most prestigious days in the calendar, including this year’s All-Ireland club final.
“I walked into the room in Kelly’s Inn in 2008 and at the front was Mickey Hughes and Johnny Dooher. I’ll never forget Mickey Hughes saying their goal was to bring through someone to referee possibly a county final, but that it would be a dream for them to develop a referee who’d take an All-Ireland final. I made contact with both men before the final because without them Sunday wouldn’t have happened for me.”
Hurson was accompanied onto the hallowed turf of Croke Park by umpires Martin Coney, Mel Taggart, Martin Conway, Cathal Forbes. Others he wished to thank included Tyrone’s refeering administrator John Devlin, Shane Doherty, Mickey McCann and Martin McGuigan, and he is also extremely mindful of Dermot McCaffrey, another member of his team who sadly passed away in February 2019.
Hurson continued: “I also wish to acknowledge the clubs around the county who have wished me well, none more so than my own club Galbally as well as the umpire’s clubs. The Tyrone County Board have been very supportive as well, and I’d like to mention Dominic McCaughey and Michael Kerr because they’re been very good to me.”