The death was announced earlier today of former Mayo GAA player, referee and administrator PJ McGrath. He was in his late Seventies.
The Kilmaine clubman served as Mayo County Board Chairman from 1997 to 2002, having previously played for the county at Junior level, as well as being a Senior panellist in 1966. He ran for President of the GAA in 2002, losing out to Kerry’s Seán Kelly.
PJ’s most famous association with Kerry was, of course, when he reffed the famous All-Ireland final of 1982. The Kingdom were seeking to clinch five All-Ireland titles in a row that year but were undone by a late Seamus Darby goal for Offaly, which the Kerry crowd were angered about due to suggestions that Darby’s marker, Tommy Doyle, had got a nudge in the back as the ball was dropping in.
PJ was adamant he got that big call right – he did, by the way – and, in a piece in the Irish Examiner, John Fogarty recounts an interview PJ gave to the late Weeshie Fogarty in 2011 in which he explains the thinking behind the crucial split-second decision he was called upon to give that day in Croke Park.
In a long refereeing career, which spanned three decades, PJ had a strong reputation for fairness. He’s even reported to have ordered his own son off in a club match one time. He referred at local, national and international level, taking charge of matches as far afield as Singapore and Australia. As well as that 1982 All-Ireland decider, he also took charge of the 1983 semi-final replay between Dublin and Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
PJ gave decades of his life to GAA administration, at many levels in the organisation and he was also active politically for several years. A teacher by profession, his time at St Colman’s College in Claremorris will be fondly recalled by many.
Tribute piece on PJ in the Western People is here.
Condolences to PJ’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.