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Ex inter-county whistler praises Clare GAA for giving younger refs their chance

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*Ambrose Heagney dishes out a yellow card to Clarecastle’s Adam Healy. Photograph: John Meyler

An ex inter-county referee has praised Clare GAA for the handling of fixtures in the club championship by awarding younger men in the middle high profile senior games.

Corofin’s Ambrose Heagney who was in charge of the 2005 Munster club senior hurling final between Newtownshandrum and Ballygunner, the 2006 Munster U21 hurling decider and four Clare SHC finals credited the fixtures committee of Clare GAA for their appointments for the big games taking place in the club campaigns.

Speaking at the September meeting of the Clare County Board, the Galway native maintained the performances of the men in the middle locally had been very positive. “The amount of new referees getting games is wonderful. We need to give these guys experience and well done to the fixtures committee for giving them that”.

No individual who completed a GAA referee foundation course in 2019 has officiated a senior game. However one of the county’s youngest referees, Chris Maguire of Shannon along with Jim Hickey has been in charge of more senior hurling championship games than anyone else, both have handled a match in each round of the Clare SHC thus far. Maguire has refereed the high-profile clashes between Sixmilebridge and Ballyea plus Cratloe versus Kilmaley.

Twenty nine year old Niall Malone from Ennis has been assigned two Clare SHC games along with Jarlath Donnellan, Wayne King, Neil O’Brien, Ger Hoey, Damien Fox and Johnny Healy. Both Ger Lyons and Fergal Gray have done one game apiece to date in the senior championship. One of the county’s more promising referees, Joe Mullins stepped away from the role earlier this year due to work commitments.

As far as football is concerned, no referee has done a game in each of the three rounds of the Clare SFC. Jarlath Donnellan and Niall Quinn who would fall in the younger category have done two each as have Barry Kelly, Pat Cosgrave and Jim Hickey. Maguire, Fox and Gray plus Barry Keating and Michael Talty also refereed a game in the Clare SFC.

Heagney who commenced refereeing in 1998 and retired last year also lamented the lack of Banner referees at inter-county level. “It is a pity we have no inter-county referee from Clare”, he added, “There are a number of referees doing excellent jobs”.

Chairman Joe Cooney advised the Ennis Track runner that Newmarket-on-Fergus’ Rory McGann was on the inter-county panel of referees but has been out of action due to an achilles injury.

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, and 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 -

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