Croke Park has come to the defence of the referees who took charge of the weekend's controversial All-Ireland hurling semi-finals.

Alan Kelly from Galway was the man in the middle for Kilkenny-Limerick on Saturday night while Seán Cleere refereed Tipperary-Wexford in Croke Park on Sunday.

Both men came in for criticism following what were two tight games, Kilkenny and Tipperary advancing to the All-Ireland final on Sunday, 18 August.

Limerick were unhappy that they weren’t awarded a late, late '65’ when a line-ball was deflected over the end-line by a Kilkenny defender.

Tipperary beat Wexford with 14 men and while there were no complaints about John McGrath’s sending off, the Premier County were aggrieved that they had three goals disallowed and Wexford felt they could have had a second-half penalty.

Limerick appeal unsuccessfully for a late '65'

"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 mistakes too," said the GAA’s National Match Officials Manager, Donal Smyth.

"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," said Smyth, who played in goals for the Meath footballers.

The pundits on The Sunday Game, Derek McGrath, Brendan Cummins and Dónal Óg Cusack, had some sympathy for the men in the middle at the weekend, saying that hurling was becoming nigh-impossible to referee.

Suggestions to improve the situation included introducing a second referee to inter-county games or bringing in video technology similar to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) now being used in many big soccer competitions.

John McGrath about to put the ball into the net, though the goal didn't stand

Referencing a disallowed goal from Tipp’s McGrath, Smyth said: "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."

Referees have to pass regular and stringent fitness tests to make it onto and stay on the small senior inter-county panel. They receive regular training and support from Croke Park and Smyth says that they welcome constructive criticism from all quarters, including players, management, fans and pundits.