Shane Gaughan to Officiate at the Women's U20s Six Nations

03 July 2024

Shane Gaughan to Officiate at the Women's U20s Six Nations

Connacht Referee Shane Gaughan is taking the next big step in his refereeing career by officiating in the Inaugural Women's U20s Six Nations Series in Parma, Italy. 

Patience. Fairness. Integrity. Authority. Diplomacy. These are just some of the qualities Shane Gaughan needs as a primary school teacher in Castlebar, County Mayo – but they also come in useful in his other life as a referee.

A member of the Association of Referees Connacht Branch, the 27-year-old is about to embark on an exciting new chapter in his on-field career. Put forward by the IRFU, Gaughan will officiate at the inaugural Women's Summer Series in Parma, Italy, this month, and he’s eager to seize this incredible opportunity.

"I started reffing about nine years ago. My dad [Peter] was a ref, and I thought, 'If he can give it a go, I can give it a go as well',” he recalls. “He was going to meetings in Galway, and I was tipping along with him, soaking it all in. I never really played, but I wanted to stay involved, so as soon as I turned 18 I signed up."

Gaughan's journey has seen him rise through the ranks, recently breaking into Division 1 of the All-Ireland League. "Taking charge of my first AIL match in 2022 was cool. It was a different kind of nerves, but also a sense of knowing I was able for it. The first season was an eye-opener, but by the second season I could relax a bit more and enjoy it."

His progression within the AIL has been steady and impressive. "My first season was in Division 2C, and I did one or two Division 2B games. This year, I started at 2B and ended the year with a Division 1B game. It was pretty cool to finally say I’m a Division 1 referee."

He highlights the camaraderie within the refereeing community as a significant support system. "You get to know the lads and you're calling them on the way to and from the match,” he says. “Those two- or three-hour journeys fly when you’re chatting with them. Sometimes you need someone on the other end of the phone after a match to tell you, 'All is not lost! Don’t worry'."

Being selected to officiate in the Women's Summer Series is a milestone in his rugby career, not least with it being the first time he will be officiating outside of Ireland. "It’s a huge experience and opportunity. I’m going to grab it with both hands, give it my best shot, and enjoy it because something like this doesn’t come around often."

He is also looking forward to interacting with colleagues from the other five nations. "Just to see how things operate over there will be great. You can read about it and look things up online, but actually talking to people about it is when you really get to know what happens."

Regarding his refereeing inspirations, he names Luke Pearce, who has over a half-century of Test matches under his belt. "He is one of the best out there. His communication is so good, and the way he interacts with players – he gets such good buy-in."

Gaughan takes pride in being part of the inaugural Women’s Summer Series. "It’s pretty cool, and it should be a good base for next year for the women to really go for it again. The U20s at men’s level has a huge following, and this should be the same."

Is refereeing something he would recommend to any youngsters thinking of taking up the whistle? “Absolutely,” is his immediate answer. “The earlier you can get involved, the better. You’re still involved in the game, but you’re getting to see it from a different side.

"Refereeing opens doors to some incredible opportunities, like this Women’s Summer Series, and just for the people you meet and the friends you make. It’s so rewarding.”

You can find the full fixtures list for the Women's U20s Six Nations below.