GALWAY BOSS ANTHONY Cunningham has no qualms about referee Barry Kelly’s ability to take charge of Sunday week’s All-Ireland final despite the concerns expressed by his Kilkenny counterpart Brian Cody last week that the Westmeath whistler could employ a zero tolerance policy in the wake of the Cats tempestuous semi-final meeting with Tipperary.
“For us, we have no fears referee-wise – Barry Kelly has been an extraordinary referee for the last number of years, he’s very experienced and we have no doubt there won’t be any problems in that sphere,” said Cunningham.
“The games Kilkenny have been involved in, winning eight All-Ireland titles since 2000, those have been fantastic spectacles. There hasn’t been any dirty play and I don’t think it’ll be any different the next day.
“It’ll be hard, fast and an intense game. The standard of refereeing is very high now and there’s nothing in this camp but respect for referees and the way they have helped to evolve the game.”
Cunningham does not believe that the fractious opening exchanges before the meeting of Kilkenny and Tipperary bucked the trend of hurling action in recent years.
“Hurling has evolved as a game and it has become far more intense, the tackles are much harder and the games are brilliant. The referees have contributed to that magnificently in the last few years.
“I don’t think there was that much different the last day. Obviously there were some tactics involved with some players trying to match up with certain other players, but there was nothing there that needed any further than a couple of yellow cards. That was it and then the game settled down and got going.
“There’s hype, there’s intensity, there’s high tension in All-Ireland finals and semi-finals. There’s a lot at stake. But it was all within the rules the last day and any games we’ve seen Kilkenny play over the years, it’s all been within the rules.”