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‘Abuse of match officials should never be tolerated’

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*Damian Fox. Photograph: Chris Copley

Clare referee Damian Fox has criticised “certain sections of the media” for being “extremely harsh” when giving their views on the performance of referees within the county and cautioned that those who abuse officials will receive suitable suspensions going forward.

This year was Fox’s first as Clare Referees Administrator succeeding Ger Hoey of Killanena in the role. In his report to Clare GAA Convention, the Clooney/Quin clubman admitted that referees are prone to mistakes but felt the criticism at times went over the top in 2019.

One of his first tasks Fox took upon himself was to look at the average age of referees in Clare “which has been heading in the wrong direction”. Along with Development Officer, Sean Chaplin they identified younger whistle-blowers in the county who officiated at Go Games in 2018, three of which agreed to do a level one foundation course. Separately, eight new recruits completed an equivalent course in Kilrush during the year.

Earlier in the year, experienced dual referee Rory Hickey blew the final whistle for the last time “for personal reasons” while one of Clare’s most promising refs, Joe Mullins of Clonlara also stepped away citing “work and family commitments”. Subsequently, Damian and fellow officials decided to progress younger referees with both Niall Malone and Chris Maguire taking charge of their first senior finals.

Fox was disappointed to see referees criticised in the media during 2019. “A referee’s job is not an easy one, we receive plenty of criticism at times and this year was no exception, in particular certain sections of the media were in my opinion extremely harsh on our association. Some of our lads do an average of six to seven matches weekly, on top of holding down full-time jobs and juggling family life to ensure that all games in Clare have a qualified referee”.

“I think the majority of clubs do appreciate the commitment we make in contributing to Clare GAA. Abuse of match officials should never be tolerated and we as an association in conjunction with the adult board and the underage board are working tirelessly to eradicate this issue and deal with transgressors to the letter of the law. We acknowledge that we are not perfect and do make mistakes but believe me that no referee in this county deliberately goes out to have a bad game”.

Though absent for the Convention, the former Wolfe Tones clubman in his report suggested clubs accommodate match officials by “making their club physio available to them if and when they need their services. We do offer our players the top treatment available and you consider that our refs are as busy as the players, I think it would be a nice gesture for them to be offered the same respect as they are representing your club every time they out to referee a game at any level”.

He acknowledged the support of all referees in the county, the Clare Competitions Control Committee, Joe Cooney, Pat Fitzgerald plus both underage boards. Fox advised that in-service courses will take place on February 11th and 18th, a level one foundation course is to be held on February 25th and March 3rd. All clubs were encouraged to recruit extra referees, at least one per club.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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