If keeping fit, having opportunities to travel, taking part in a lively social scene or getting an adrenaline rush is your idea of a great pastime, then rugby refereeing could be for you.

Below we talk to Connacht referee, Siobhán Daly, who was nominated for the Referee of the Year gong at this season’s Connacht Rugby Awards.

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Where did your referee journey start?

I had to stop playing rugby due to concussion so I began refereeing touch and tag rugby, and when the timing felt right I signed up to the IRFU refereeing course.

What made you want to be a rugby referee?

I love the game and missed being a part of it. I also enjoy the challenge of learning and staying fit – wish I had known the laws better as a player!

Outside of being a referee, tell me a little about yourself?

I work as a psychologist in children’s services and I’m a mum. I really enjoy sport for the social and competitive side; it’s a great mix for me.

What has been your proudest moment as a rugby referee?

Many moments – getting on the pitch and doing it, refereeing or being a part of an officiating team for a high stakes match, managing a tough game well. I found being at the sportsground for the youth cup finals, especially the girls, unexpectedly emotional this year. All the teams, dedicated coaches and such a big crowd in support. Lovely to see after the covid break.

What has been your biggest challenge in your journey so far?

Being sleep deprived from a baby (then toddler) not sleeping at night, managing breast-feeding and making sure everything is sorted for when I’m away.

Has there been anything that surprised you?

Mostly how enjoyable it is. I didn’t expect that. Also humorous moments that can occur when something unexpected happens on the pitch. And when you see the respect and support between players, especially when a team has lost or is losing – it’s good for the soul.

What does a typical day as a referee look like?

Double checking I have everything needed in the gear bag and watches charged up, eating and hydrating well, going over specific competition regulations, and finding the venue in plenty of time (making sure I have not turned on ‘avoid main routes’ in Google maps; this has happened!) Then it’s going through the pre-match bits and pieces – checking the pitch/tech zones, team sheets, players boots/nails, talking with the captains, warming up, etc. Afterwards it’s making sure any needed paper-work is completed, and hopefully finding a nice coffee for the drive home.

Is there anything difficult about the role? 

For me it’s the niggling feeling after a match when I think or know I got a call wrong or could have made a better decision. Getting your positioning right on the pitch helps hugely – you can only ref what you see. It’s good to have supportive links with other experienced referees or players for days I feel more human. Mistakes are great for learning and can make your next match better.

What is your rugby back story?

I traded dance and boxing shoes for rugby boots at 30, happily. I was lucky enough to have been part of an AIL win with Galwegians and played touch and tag rugby. From my involvement in the theatrical world to having a noisy baby at home, reffing rugby just seemed like a natural progression, and good for my head!

Any advice for people who are considering becoming a referee?

Do it. Do any refereeing you can, it all helps build confidence. Get support from people who help you improve. Do the training course, learn the laws and especially at the beginning, try not to take too many breaks between fixtures. The momentum of match after match really helps you improve, as does the mentoring.

Refereeing gives you the opportunity to give something back to the game. Rugby referees enjoy the same benefits of the game as the players – without the injuries!

There is more need for referees now than ever!

If you would like to start refereeing and become a member of the association contact IRFU Referee Development Manager Peter Fitzgibbon by phone on 086 8322987 or by email [email protected]

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