We sat down with Andy Fogarty, a member of the Association of Referees Connacht Branch. The AIL referee discussed his journey within the game so far, and how the skills he has gained have helped him both on and off the pitch.
Where and when did your referee journey start and where is it now?
I began refereeing towards the end of the 2017 season. I was thinking of getting back into rugby and saw an advert on Connacht Rugby social media asking if anyone wanted to try out refereeing.
I went along to the referee course and a few weeks later reffed an u-13 match.
I got selected to do IPAS (Interprovincial Assessment System) in January 2020 and made the National Panel as the first Covid-19 lockdowns came into effect.
My first season in the AIL was this season 21/22.
What is your rugby back story?
I played at schools with Cistercian College Roscrea. I lived in Canada for a while and played a little there and helped coach a college team in Québec. After moving around for a few years I wanted to get back into rugby and spotted the new referee course so I decided to try it out.
Outside of being a referee, tell me a little about yourself.
I'm a primary school teacher in Knocknacarra National School. I have a very supportive and understanding wife, Niamh.
She loves to challenge me with law questions. I have a two-year-old boy, Freddie, who keeps me very busy. I also ref tag rugby in the off season. It's really well run in Galway and a good intro to reffing for anyone thinking about getting into it.
Does being a referee help with anything outside of sport?
Refereeing definitely helps with communication. It's helpful to be clear and concise as a referee and get your message across in a polite but assertive manner.
What made you want to be a rugby referee?
I was looking for a challenge and felt it was a good way to get back into rugby. Refereeing is always a challenge as anything can happen at any level of match. You always have to think on your feet, know the laws and apply them effectively while keeping control in the match.
What has been your proudest moment so far as a referee?
Refereeing the Connacht Senior Schools Cup Final this year was a proud moment and an honour.
What had been the biggest challenge in your journey so far?
Probably reffing a heated Limerick junior rugby derby.
It was a good learning process as it's a good reminder to always stay calm, communicate clearly and keep control in a match. Once players buy into the messages you are giving as a referee there will be a positive outcome.
What does a typical day working as a ref look like?
The night before a match I get my bag ready, I have a checklist for my match bag and make sure I have everything packed.
I'm generally up early and leave in plenty of time for a match aiming to be at the venue at least an hour before kick off.
I meet a representative from the home club to let them know I've arrived. I get togged out, check the boots of both teams, get the team sheets chat to the captains and then warm up for kick off. After the match I pop into the clubhouse for a cup of coffee before hitting the road home.
Has there been anything that has surprised you?
How important it is to keep on top of fitness throughout the season. The fitter you are the better position you'll be in to make an accurate decision. Fitness also helps with a clear head running around the pitch.
Is there anything difficult about the role?
Sometimes the drives to matches can be long, but it's a good opportunity to get stuck into an audiobook or podcast en route.
What is your dream match to referee?
I'd love to referee the Fiji 7s team! I love to watch the Fijians in full flight showing all their skills and great offloads.
Any advice for people who are considering becoming a referee?
It's definitely worth a try, you can find a level that suits you.
It's a good way to keep fit, meet good people and learn about rugby. There are good supports and mentoring for new referees and all referees doing matches throughout the season.
Find out more about how you can start your journey towards becoming a referee here.