4,500 games are being officiated by a mere 95 referees in an average year in Tipperary at the present time.
If you look a little closer, it’s even more staggering and the pressure that referees and the different board secretaries are under is enormous.
If you were to ask Joe public, he would scratch his head and wonder what all the fuss is about, “sure there’s always a ref at the games I go to”. Right you are Joe, but you won’t miss the water till the well has run dry.
Enourmous work is being done behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of our great games. Great credit is due to all those involved for their efforts.
Sally Young of Drom/Inch, was rightly awarded the 2014 GAA Presidents Award for her contribution to the GAA. Sally, one of those busy board secretaries, tells of the sheer volume of games. In one four day period there was 30 juvenile games played. You must also consider that there will be senior games going on too. It took seventeen phone calls to arrange one game and Mid-Tipp has got its fair share of the overall number of dedicated referees. Sally has nothing but praise for the referees she works with, and she feels maybe more awareness at club level could help. Clubs should do more on the recruitment side, maybe approach people within the community. Also, people should be more open to giving refereeing a go. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out.
This current situation has pushed the County Board into action with the creation of a new position, namely, Referees Recruitment Officer.
At the last County Board meeting the issue around referees was brought up and we spoke with Sean Nugent on the matter. “Referees are under severe pressure across both codes, at underage, Ladies, Senior. It is an ongoing issue, we have some refs doing two maybe three games in a weekend. Over the next couple of weeks we have a full program of top club games and we are required to have lines men at the bigger games, so that will bring with it its own problems.”
We can all see that the numbers don’t add up, so we asked him what he thinks are the reasons for the current situation. “Well the County board takes some of the reponsibilty here. We left it to the individual boards to get on to the clubs. It was then down to the clubs to produce referees, this had worked for a while, but it is no longer the solution”.
A looked at a list of referees shows that some clubs are doing great work, but others are just not pulling there weight. We put this to Sean, “Its clear some teams are not facing up to their responsibilties and maybe we might have to get tougher with these clubs -it’s something we have to look at. But we have some great servants to the game who have never let us, or their respective boards down. Their experience is a vital asset to us going forward”.
Now that the problem has been highlighted it can be addressed. The Board has created a new position, with John Lonergan being appointed Referees Recruitment Officer. He has been asked to tackle the issue and devise new stratigies for getting new referees on board. A provisonal target of 30 refs has been set for the end of year course being run by the Munster Council. A plan is being put in place to ensure that those who take up the course receive as much support as possible.
“We will be introducing a policy of new referees receiving mentoring - we can’t afford candidates dropping out after a few games. We have plenty of experienced referees and we will look to use that resource where possible,” Sean said.
A lot is said about refereeing, but you can have the best teams in the world on the finest sod from Ireland and then the call goes out, where’s the ref, where’s the ref? Without them, there is no game, no memories, no medals, no stories. In any given game, thirty one people will take to the field, each one as important as the next. If you have the referees course done in the past or you gave it a go and it didn’t feel right, well this could be the time for you -the mentoring you might have needed back then, will be there now. The Tipperary Star will keep readers posted of any upcoming courses. Details can also be got through your local GAA club. Or, if it suits you can contact John Lonergan direct through the Tipperary GAA website.