CORK referee Colm Lyons has paid tribute to the strong support structure that has helped him to be appointed to take charge of this year’s All-Ireland SHC final.
Nemo Rangers clubman Lyons, the principal of Crosshaven Boys’ NS, will referee the clash between Limerick and Kilkenny at Croke Park on July 17, the culmination of nearly two decades whistling.
“It’s a huge privilege to be appointed to the All-Ireland final,” he says.
“Only one referee each year gets to have that huge honour and only one group of umpires as well. Credit to my own umpires for the commitment and dedication that they have shown over the years.
“I’m lucky to have great guys – Johnny Barry from Ballinure, Ciarán Hanley from Brian Dillons – who umpired for Willie Horgan in the 1991 final, when he was just a teenager, and two Nemo lads, Philip Mackey and Finian Mullane.
“I must acknowledge the support of my wife Áine, my family and my club. I’ve had a huge amount of people help me out over the years, doing the line and acting as umpires.”
Lyons didn’t have any lofty ambitions when he first began to do games, but he benefited from the confidence shown in him from the various people in charge of appointing referees to games.
“I started off around 2003 but I had no aspirations of going anywhere initially,” Lyons says.
“I got a break in 2007, Munster minor championship game between Limerick and Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds. It was my first big game and it whetted the appetite at the time.
“From there, I’ve done three county finals in Cork, huge occasions, and I must give huge credit to what used to be Bord na nÓg in the city, which went on to be Rebel Óg,
“Bernard Corcoran was a huge help there, as was Jim Healy on the county minor board, they gave me games that pushed me on. Donal O’Connor in the Seandún divisional board was great, too.”
Lyons will be the first Cork-based referee to look after hurling’s showpiece occasion since Diarmuid Kirwan did the 2009 All-Ireland final, when Kilkenny beat Tipperary to achieve a fourth straight title.
He has had a gradual progression through the inter-county ranks and is looking forward to the occasion.
“You’d feel that your name is in the hat and then it’s all about coming out of the hat,” he says.
“I was put on the inter-county panel in 2011 and then the championship panel in 2012, when I did my first Liam MacCarthy matches.
“I did the line in the 2014 and 2016 All-Ireland finals, they were massive occasions to be part of. I was standby referee for Fergal Horgan in 2017 and 2020, which were two totally different experiences – one with 80-odd thousand and one with no spectators!
“Your form has to be good, but there are other factors outside of your control too. It’s all just about getting the ball in at half past three on July 17.”