*John Bugler, Fergal O’Brien and Andy McMahon. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE GAA have launched a referee recruitment drive in a bid to boost the amount of whistlers in the county.

Currently, there are 41 referees associated with Clare GAA. On Monday, an information night will be held in The Temple Gate Hotel at 8pm for prospective referees.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Seanie McMahon referee’s administrator with Clare GAA explained, “There has been a publicity campaign on social media where people have expressed an interest and they are invited to attend on Monday night at the information night and hopefully clubs will also send prospective candidates to the information night which they have been told about at Tuesday night’s County Board meeting and also via local media. The actual course itself consists of two online sessions and two in-house sessions”.

Once the information night has concluded, persons will be able to complete the first online session. “The two in-house sessions are on Tuesday 27th February and Thursday 29th February which is at the Temple Gate also. The final online session has to be completed by Friday 8th March so they have from the last in-house session on the 29th to the 8th of March to complete the last online session which contains questions on the rules, it is their rule test,” McMahon said.

According to the Newmarket-on-Fergus native, online sessions will focus on the general rules such as the duties of the match official, specification of the field dimensions and what they have learned from the in-house sessions. He stated, “The in-house sessions do the aggressive and technical fouls, technical fouls are stuff like not making three catches or overcarrying the ball, aggressive fouls are what are deemed to be worthy of a red or yellow card, it will also deal with filling in the referee’s match report”.

Killanena’s Ger Hoey and Brendan Stack from Limerick are the referee tutors that will be delivering the Temple Gate sessions to the men and women set to take up the whistle. The duo were updated on the new course last week in Mallow after Croke Park updated the referee’s foundation course at the beginning of February.

Although the amount of referees has increased in Clare since Seanie’s appointment close to two years ago, it is acknowledged that leaving the burden to 41 referees is not sustainable. “Clare GAA are lucky that of the 41 referees we have currently that 38 of them are active, only three are injured, they complete over 2,000 games annually. We need extra referees to alleviate the burden on the current crop of referees, a lot of whom are over fifty years of age”.

Seanie McMahon. Photograph: Natasha Barton

Referee of the 2004 Munster senior hurling final, Seanie did not believe the job of a referee had become more difficult in recent years. “Refereeing can have a great social aspect for candidates that would meet a lot of new people, look at all the friends I made from refereeing. Refereeing gives you confidence to deal in different situations, it improves your fitness, it maintains an involvement in the GAA, it can also lead to a career path in that you start as a club referee, you could be moved onto the Munster panel, then the supplementary national panel and then finally onto the national panel”.

However, he felt officials were coming under greater scrutiny, much of which was not justified in his view. “The national referees are coming under more scrutiny because every match is streamed so they have to be better prepared than previously. There is a lot more media intrusion, when I was refereeing very few of the club games were streamed whereas now there’s videos of most games. I do think that referees come in for undue criticism and depending on the teams involved like managers can blame a referee for losing a match instead of looking at their own decisions and their own players”.

At present, there are eight Clare referees on panels outside of the county. “On the national panel which is the highest level in football we’ve Chris Maguire and Niall Quinn and in hurling, Niall Malone. At provincial level, we have Joe Mullins, Jarlath Donnellan and John Bugler in hurling, on the Munster provincial referees academy we have Gary Twomey in football and Aaron Hogg. It is worth noting that Gary Twomey only did the foundation course in March 2023 and due to his performances and feedback from mentors he has progressed and shown promise,” McMahon said.

McMahon maintained that becoming a referee would stand to officials even outside of the GAA. “Becoming a referee keeps you involved in the GAA and is a great way to stay physically fit, there are opportunities to have a different role to play in the county final, it helps your knowledge and understanding of the game and also gives the chance for people to give back. For me refereeing helped me to make decisions, it helped in various aspects of life when I had to make decisions whether it is right or wrong, those judgement calls and communication skills that you learn are important, you’ve to communicate to the players and the public which all comes from refereeing. You’re on a public stage, you’re outside in front of 50 or 50,000 so you have to be confident, those confidence skills can be developed by people who choose to become a referee, those things don’t come immediately”.

There is an onus on clubs to put individuals forwards to act as referees, the former Clare hurler affirmed. “The current Clare GAA Executive will be looking at clubs who don’t provide referees and they could be levied or fined but no decision has been made yet, it depends on the success of referee recruitment in 2024. Clubs that don’t have referees should be paying more of a levy than the clubs that do provide referees, in my opinion”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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