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Croke Park officials have defended the performances of referees Alan Kelly and Seán Cleere who were both criticised for decisions made during the respective All Ireland hurling semi-finals over the weekend.

Kelly took charge of Limerick v Kilkenny on Saturday, a game which ended in controversial circumstances when Darragh O’Donovan’s sideline cut was blocked down and diverted out of play by Cillian Buckley. However, the umpires signalled for a wide and the All Ireland champions were denied a chance at levelling the game.

Questions were also raised over whether Aaron Gillane’s penalty was deserved or not while Colin Fennelly was also accused of overcarrying the ball on his way to scoring Kilkenny’s goal.

Criticism only worsened on Sunday when Kilkenny native Seán Cleere took charge of Tipperary against Wexford as the Premier County had three disallowed goals while there were also questions over whether or not Wexford should have been awarded a penalty and a possible square ball in the lead up to Conor McDonald’s second goal.

Tipperary also had John McGrath sent off for two yellow cards, though there were no complaints surrounding that decision.

Speaking to RTE Sport, the GAA’s National Match Officials Manager, Donal Smyth, defended the standard of officiating, maintaining that referees work as hard at their craft as players.

“A referee makes in the region of 90 to 100 decisions in a game so they are going to get some of them wrong – that’s human nature. Players make mistakes too.

“People talk about the work that players put in, but referees put in the same work too and the decision that a referee makes in the last minute has to be the same as the decision they make in the first.

“Seán Cleere was going as hard as any of the players at the end of the game. Between them the two teams brought on nine substitutes and he was still getting up and down the field with them.

“Referees train as hard as the players and that’s why it frustrates me when I hear people say ‘players train all year and then one decision cost them’.

“Our referees train as hard and work as hard as anyone else and they feel as bad as any player when it goes wrong because this is a huge part of their lives.”

One of Tipperary’s disallowed goals came as a delayed instruction from HawkEye which indicated that the previous effort, a long-range free from Lee Chin, had gone over the bar. Tipperary goalkeeper Brian Hogan had initially caught the ball before playing it.

Patrons were frustrated at the length of time it took to register as the ball had already been moved down the field and finished to the back of the net by John McGrath.

However, Smyth defended the technology saying it has been a huge benefit to the game.

“I heard someone say that it would only take 20 seconds to get the call right. At the weekend we had the ball go over the bar, caught by the goalkeeper, cleared, a free awarded and taken quickly and put in the back of the net.

“That took around a minute and then there were groans around the ground; ‘here’s HawkEye again…’. HawkEye has been a huge bonus in Croke Park and Thurles, but there are limits to technology.”

The referee for the All Ireland hurling final between Tipperary and Kilkenny is yet to be announced.

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