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.

We have been speaking to some of Connacht’s finest referees and asking them how they got involved in the role and what advice they would give to someone who is interested in pursuing refereeing.

Our first two Q&A sessions were with Andy Fogarty and Siobhán Daly. Now it’s the turn of John Quin to discuss why he became a referee and his goals within the game.

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What is your rugby back story? 

I was a player underage with Sligo RFC. I played my adult rugby with NUIG from 2005 until around 2010. It was a great way to meet people and we were a very ’social’ team!

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

I am a 37 year old Army Officer from Co. Sligo. I live in Oranmore, Co. Galway with my wife Áine.

Where and when did your referee journey start and where is it now?

I started out in 2018 when I completed my referee course with Connacht Rugby. I was really impressed by the detail and professionalism of our trainers as well as the opportunities to proceed through the grades.

Since then I have been really fortunate to be involved in some great games. I am currently a junior provincial referee so I mainly referee in Connacht from U14 and Junior Schools to Adult J1/J2 League and Cup games.

Does being a referee help with anything outside of sport? 

Yes, definitely. I work as an Officer in Óglaigh na hÉireann (the Irish Defence Forces) so being fit and eating healthily is an important part of the job. Refereeing has given me a real focus for my physical training and the mental resilience and decision making required to referee a game is a key aspect too, that has crossed over to my work. In many ways my role in the Army has helped my refereeing as well.

One of the often overlooked aspects is there is a huge social side to being a referee. You travel throughout the province meeting great people who are giving freely of their time to improve the game and you meet players, both young and old, who love the game and the fierce competition of a rugby match. Whilst it can be lonely sometimes standing there in the middle, you know you’re part of something really special in Connacht and you know that all the referee assessors, coaches, supporters and players have your back and will gladly have a cup of tea or a pint with you after the game.

What made you want to be a rugby referee? 

Back in 2018  I had been looking for an opportunity to stay involved in rugby that offered flexibility around my work and personal life and refereeing was a perfect fit.

What has been your proudest moment so far as a referee? 

Finals are always great occasions with loads of noise and lots of pressure. I was honoured to be appointed to the Junior Schools Cup Final between Marist and Sligo Grammar, this season which was great fun, once I got over the nerves. I also was lucky enough to run the touchline in the Junior Cup Final and watch my fellow referee, Shane Gaughan, put in a great performance.

Any advice for people who are considering becoming a referee? 

Get on to Connacht Rugby and just give it a go. No one expects you to be Nigel Owens on day one. There’s great opportunities to develop and learn and if you come to refereeing with a growth mindset you’ll have no issues and a lot of fun!

What does a typical day working as a ref look like? 

Preparation normally starts the night before, just like most players. Getting a good meal (plenty of carbohydrates and vegetables) and a good night’s sleep is always a good start. I might do a bit of work on my game plan and revise some laws the evening before, as well.

On the morning of a 2pm game I’ll get up around 8am, do some stretching and a walk then breakfast and relax most of the morning. I’ll aim to get to the game for about 1hr 15mins before kick off leaving plenty of time to meet teams, inspect the ground and do a warm up. I like to have everything done 30mins out from kick off so I can prepare mentally for the game.

After the game I’ll normally call into the club house for a cup of tea and head home. I’ll update the system with the score and make some notes on how I thought the game went when I get home.

What had been the biggest challenge in your journey so far? 

Referee abuse, thankfully, is rare in Connacht and people understand you’re trying to be fair and facilitate a good game. However, I have encountered some challenging behaviour from players and others and dealing with this has been a challenge that all referees, unfortunately, encounter at some stage in their development.

Has there been anything that has surprised you? 

The mental pressure has really surprised me. Sometimes the pressure comes from the crowd and atmosphere, sometimes from the players and sometimes from myself. I’ve had to be better at dealing with pressure by being better prepared and having a plan for those big championship minutes. It’s why you get involved as it can be really exciting and it feels great when a big game goes well.

Is there anything difficult about the role? 

When you get into it, balancing the time commitment can be difficult but the Association are great in supporting you and they understand if you need a break.

What is your dream match to referee? 

I’ve seen some footage recently of schools games in New Zealand. They look incredible! That would be amazing to referee I’d say.

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]

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]

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.

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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.

Congratulations to the members of the Connacht Referee Association who were called in at short notice to help officiate in the recent Ireland v France U20 International held in Athlone on Friday the 6th of February.  Due to the adverse conditions only the Welsh Referee, David Bodily and his Television Match Official made it over as they travelled on the Thursday.  The Touch Judges on the other hand who were due to fly from Cardiff to Dublin on Friday morning never got off the ground due to the cold snap. (more…)

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