Maurice Deegan, the man charged with the responsibility of handling this Sunday’s All-Ireland senior football final between Mayo and Donegal, will find his performance coming under scrutiny from a fellow-whistler — and with good reason.
While the vastly experienced Deegan is preparing to take control of his second All-Ireland decider having been the man in the middle when Tyrone beat Kerry in 2008, Bellaghy man Barry Cassidy will take in his performance in detail after first refereeing the Minor final between Meath and Dublin.
Deegan is now one of the most experienced whistlers in the country and already this year he has handled a number of high-profile provincial ties as well as qualifier matches and the Allianz Football League Division One final which was won by Cork for the third year in succession.
Laois man Deegan is regarded as a sensible, pragmatic whistler who is unlikely to be fazed by the occasion and is certainly not known for ‘playing to the gallery’.
In a year in which some of his colleagues have found themselves under fire because of the quality of their performances, Deegan has been the essence of consistency and this certainly has had much to do with his choice to officiate at the biggest game of the year.
Cassidy in contrast is an emerging whistler of considerable quality whose fitness, knowledge of the playing rules and rapport with players make him the ideal choice to take charge of the minor game for which Dublin will be favourites having beaten Meath twice this year already.
Cassidy came to the fore on the Derry club scene before branching out into the inter-county arena where he has handled Allianz League games as well as championship matches.
Sunday will mark an important stepping stone in his refereeing career — indeed, he could well become the next Ulster whistler to follow in the footsteps of such high-profile figures as Pat McEnaney, Joe McQuillan and Jimmy White.
It is hardly a coincidence that Deegan and Cassidy, two referees with their feet planted firmly on the ground, have been chosen to take charge of Sunday’s matches, the feeling being that the ties are in safe hands.
The GAA cannot afford to descend into controversy and that’s why every call by both referees is likely to be scrutinised closely.
Meath’s David Coldrick will be the standby referee for the senior game while the other linesman is Eddie Kinsella (Laois) and the sideline official will be Conor Lane (Cork).
Umpires will be Laois quartet Kevin O’Brien, Sean Langton, Alan Abbey and Richard Oxley who have all been part of Deegan’s ‘team’ for some time. Cassidy’s umpires for the minor game will be Kevin Toner (Bellaghy), Anthony Campbell (Magherafelt), Tom O’Kane (Castledawson) and Alan Nash (Derry Trasna).
Sunday's All-Ireland final meeting between Donegal and Mayo is to be shown at Belfast City Hall on a big screen, just as it was for the Ulster final between Donegal and Down.
Throw-in for the final is at 3.30pm. Admission is free to the City Hall grounds, on a first-come, first-served policy. Supporters are invited to wear team colours, but flag poles are forbidden. Picnics are permitted, but alcohol is not. Standard Belfast City Council terms and conditions apply.