Cork's Colm Lyons takes centre stage on biggest day in hurling

The Nemo Rangers referee handles his first All-Ireland senior final as Limerick attempt three-in-a-row
Cork's Colm Lyons takes centre stage on biggest day in hurling

Colm Lyons handles his first All-Ireland senior hurling final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THE appointment of Colm Lyons to referee Sunday’s greatly anticipated Limerick-Kilkenny All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park ends a 13-year wait since the last Cork official to handle the biggest game in the calendar.

That honour fell to Diarmuid Kirwan, who handled the 2009 decider between Kilkenny and Tipperary, and the Eire Og clubman followed in the footsteps of Willie Horgan, Frank Murphy and Con Murphy to have refereed All-Ireland finals.

There’s a common thread running through the majority of those finals directed by Cork referees and that’s Kilkenny, but Frank Murphy took charge of the 1981 decider involving Offaly and Galway.

This will be Lyons’s first senior final though the Nemo Rangers clubman has also refereed the All-Ireland minor final in 2012 between Tipperary and Dublin which ended in a draw before the Dubs won the replay in a game refereed by Galway’s Alan Kelly.

In 2017, Lyons, principal of Crosshaven Boys NS, took charge of the league final involving Galway and Tipperary with Galway romping to victory as well as the Leinster final in which Galway recorded another runaway victory, this time over Wexford.

Lyons has been a regular visitor to headquarters, taking charge of the 2018 and 2020 All-Ireland club finals, as well.

The 2018 final between Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh and Cuala from Dublin ended level after extra-tie with Cuala winning the replay in Portlaoise and Kilkenny’s Ballyhale Shamrocks triumphed two years later against Tipperary’s Borris-Ileigh.

This season, Lyons refereed Kilkenny-Galway in Leinster, the two games in Munster between Limerick and Clare as well as the Clare-Wexford All-Ireland quarter-final.

Assisting him will be umpires Ciaran Hanley (Brian Dillons), Johnny Barry (Ballinure) and Nemo pair, Philip Mackey and Finian Mullane.

The linesmen are Carlow’s Paud O’Dwyer and Galway’s Liam Gordon while Michael Kennedy (Tipperary) is the side line official.

Kilkenny have a mixed record with Cork referees in charge, twice recording victories under Kirwan’s stewardship, but losing two others.

In his first final in 07, the Cats pounced early against Limerick-a warning sign if any was needed for Sunday-by scoring two goals inside the opening 10 minutes which rocked the Shannonsiders.

Kilkenny raced to a 2-3 to 0-0 lead following quick-fire goals from Eddie Brennan and Henry Shefflin en route to a 2-19 to 1-15 victory.

And this despite losing full-back Noel Hickey to a hamstring injury during the first-half and then Shefflin at half-time due to a knee injury.

The strength of the bench, however, was quite telling as John Tennyson came on in defence with Brian Hogan diverting to full-back and Michael Fennelly taking over Shefflin’s place in attack with Richie Power on frees.

Kilkenny were always in control, surging nine points clear early in the second-half before an Ollie Moran goal reduced it to five on the hour, but winning by seven in the end.

It was Kilkenny’s 30th title, bringing them level with Cork.

Two years later, Tipp provided the opposition in a much tighter final, which was decided once more by two Kilkenny goals in quick succession.

The first came from a debateable 64th minute penalty decision awarded against Tipp defender Paul Curran, who challenged Power, with Shefflin sticking the penalty.

And before Tipp could draw breath again, Martin Comerford added a second as the Cats drove to a 2-22 to 0-23 success.

Willie Horgan from the Brian Dillons club refereed the 1991 final, again featuring Kilkenny and Tipperary though the Munster champions overcame their great rivals that afternoon, winning by 1-16 to 0-15.

It was their 24th title and their second All-Ireland in three years with Michael Cleary’s goal part of his 1-6 haul and Pat Fox contributing 0-5. DJ Carey scored 0-9 for Kilkenny.

Frank Murphy refereed his first final in 1971 at just 27 and it was an 80-minute decider, which produced 10 goals, Tipp winning by 5-17 to 5-14.

Babs Keating scored 0-7 for Tipp with Roger Ryan netting twice while Eddie Keher’s 2-11 wasn’t enough to stop Tipp.

A decade later, Murphy was back in charge of Offaly’s 2-12 to 0-15 victory over Galway.

Now, it’s the turn of another Corkman to officiate in a game that has captured the hurling imagination as Limerick aim for three-in-a-row against revered feared opponents.

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