“WAS THERE? I don’t listen to social media,” was 2018 All-Ireland SHC final referee James Owens’ initial tongue-in-cheek response when the sideshow in the build-up to the decider came up in conversation.

The sideshow was of course James McGrath’s omission and his subsequent resignation.

The day after it was announced that Wexford native Owens would take charge of the Croke Park showdown between Limerick and Galway, McGrath hung up his whistle.

“It’s a decision that’s been made for me,” the Westmeath man wrote on Facebook after it was confirmed that he wouldn’t be involved at all on match day.

“I’m not your second choice nor your backup plan. Either choose me or lose me if I’m not your first choice.”

And at the launch of the GAA’s Referee Development Plan in Croke Park this morning, Owens spoke openly on the matter. 

He said he understood McGrath’s reaction, adding that he’d also be put out if he was snubbed.

James McGrath.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

James McGrath speaks to RTE Sport about his decision to retire from the inter-county referee panel in the light of the appointments committee not appointing him as one the match officials for the 2018 final pic.twitter.com/eHrGrkU2wQ

— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) August 8, 2018

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“I was upset in 2010, 2011,” he said. “Obviously look, you want to referee the All-Ireland but if you don’t get the call, if you think you’re in the frame… I would have been upset if I didn’t get the call.

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“That’s the drive at the beginning of the year, that you want to referee the All-Ireland final. The 12 of us that were picked on the panel, every one of us, to a certain degree, want to referee the All-Ireland final.

“We know that there’s four or five that it will come down to in the end. If you’re in that shake-up, you will be disappointed if you don’t get it. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t got the call. So, I can understand it.”

Owens and his team on the day.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Owens noted that he wasn’t distracted by the sideshow whatsoever, and that it “probably helped” in the grand scheme of things because it kept him out of the limelight.

“Once I got the call, that was my main focus. It was me, the guys that were working with me – Fergal (Horgan), Sean (Cleere), Patrick (Murphy) and the four umpires.

“It probably helped a small bit because it took the attention off. I’ve been talking (to him) since the decision was made. We’re good friends and we’ve been soldiering together for a long time. That’s not really going to change.”

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