Meath Referees Administrator Frank Gallogly (second from left) is hoping to unearth more referees like Patrick Coyle, David Coldrick and Cormac Reilly,Photo: John Quirke / www.quirke.ie

Gallogly calling for even more officials to take up the whistle

REFEREES Shortages could lead to games not being played

It's often said that a sign that a referee is having a good game is when nobody notices he is out there on the pitch - and when it comes to Meath GAA it is invariably a 'he' because currently there are no female match officials on the official list.

One of the main tasks of Meath Co Board Referees' Inspector Frank Gallogly is to ensure that, first of all, there is a referee on the pitch, regardless of whether he gets noticed or not.

That's not as straightforward a task as it might initially seem. Finding referees, he points out, was particularly challenging this year when the already limited pool was reduced further by the Covid-19 crisis; some officials were reluctant to take charge of games during a pandemic.

"Basically from under-age games right up to adult level we would be looking at providing referee for over 4,000 games in the county each year and to ensure those games go ahead we are working off between 70 and 80 active referees," he said.

"I want to thank all the referees who this year helped out in ensuring we got games played. Due to Covid-19 there was a lot of pressure on referees because some match officials didn't want to take charge of games when the pandemic was on and I totally respect their decision. Others stepped forward and I want to thank them for that."

Gallogly says there is a shortage of referees in Meath although he wouldn't go any further than that.

"There is a shortage, I wouldn't say there is a crisis but going forward it's not sustainable to be operating the way we are because there is a possibility we could lose matches in Meath and the Co Board do not want that to happen," he said adding that as far as he is aware no match officials have retired in recent years because of physical or verbal abuse.

So to address the issue the Dunshaughlin clubman is "urging" clubs to put forward people who have interest, the desire, the resolve needed to become referees. People who, in short, who have the right stuff.

Recently he contacted all 59 hurling and football clubs in Meath asking them to put forward people, preferably aged between 25 and 40 (give or take a year or so). The Co Board's CCC have in the past taken action against clubs who don't put forward referees by not fixing games at the club's home ground.

"I rang the 59 secretaries in the county which is a bit of work and I asked larger clubs to provide two referees because of their local population and I have got a very positive response," he said.

This is the second time Gallogly has looked to clubs to solve what is clearly a growing problem.

"What was happening before is that clubs were ticking the box by putting in a name and that person in some cases never showed any interest in refereeing games, it was only a case of ticking a box so that they wouldn't lose any of their home games but I don't want to go down that route.

"The way I'm doing it this time is if the clubs have a suitable candidate to send me the details I will ring that person, talk to them and take them through what's involved."

He wants people who have an interest in the role to step forward. That's vital. He wants people who have a decent standard of fitness, have a good knowledge of the game or at least have an interest in reaching the standards required. Woman, he adds, are more than welcome to apply.

He could have added that referees need a thick skin to withstand the 'advice' they invariably will get from the sidelines. That kind of resilience must come from within, you suspect, but advice will be provided on such issues if needed.

He pays tribute to those on the Meath Co Board Referees' Committee, all of whom he says are fully committed to helping new recruits find their feet.

"Our committee members will go and watch referees, talk to them, help them. It's not just a case of giving someone a whistle and saying 'away you go.' We will follow them up," said Gallogly.

"We will bring in guys and allow them to do the line (fill in as linesmen) for games to let them see how other guys are refereeing. It's about being positive, encouraging," he adds.

He also calls on clubs to support emerging match officials with umpires and the gear necessary to carry out the role, supporting them in every way they can.

Someone who took charge of games for 12 years, Gallogly points out that refereeing can be very rewarding. Tough, pressurised at times, but rewarding.

"There can be a lot of enjoyment in the role. For people who have finished playing, for example, it's a great way to stay involved. There's the fitness aspect. There's also the chance to progress to the highest level. Taking charge of games at that level can be very challenging and rewarding," he adds.

The important thing, he adds, is that games are played, regardless of whether the match official is noticed or not. The show must go on - but without referees there will be no show.

*Those interested in becoming referees can contact Frank Gallogly through their clubs or directly on (086) 8686729 before Saturday 5th December.

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