Fancy being a GAA ref? Mayo looking for whistlers
IT may have been launched far from the madding crowds, and may not set the pulses racing as much as the debate about the colour of the new Mayo ‘away’ jersey, but the GAA have launched a new recruitment campaign aimed at increasing the number of volunteers involved in refereeing at all levels of the Association.
The aim of the ‘Think you can do better?’ campaign is to increase the number of referees officiating at club games throughout the country and hopefully, push on to provincial and national level in years to come.
Next Tuesday night, February 10, anybody in Mayo who thinks that they might be interested in trying a whistle out for size is invited to attend an information evening at MacHale Park, Castlebar at 7.30pm.
The Mayo GAA recruitment campaign is being spearheaded by well-known former whistler, Willie Feeley, who officiated for many years on the playing fields of Mayo, Connacht and beyond after his playing career ended.
He has a simple message for anyone (young or old) who is considering refereeing as a new pursuit.
“Give it a go, come along next Tuesday, and hear and see what’s it like. Refereeing is a chance to make great friends, put something back into the GAA and the community, and keep you active. We’ll train you and support you, and you won’t regret it.
“I refereed for years and I absolutely loved it, I enjoyed every second,” Willie added. “I met brilliant people, made some great friends, and I can honestly say that I never made any enemies. I got great satisfaction out of refereeing and I missed it when I gave it up.
“Even on the sideline now at matches I’d often say, ‘I’d love to be out there’.”
So what are the qualities that aspiring referees need to have to join the ranks of superbly-conditioned athletes/officials like Kevin Connelly, Denis Harrington, Declan Corcoran et al.
“You’d have to want to have an interest in football or hurling, be in reasonably good shape, and, of course, be a member of a club,” explained Willie Feeley.
“A big factor too is commitment and reliability. People need to be aware that once they commit they need to be available when they get a call to referee a game.
“We’d welcome men and women of all ages, the younger the better. We’ve been averaging 15 per year coming in to give it a try and about five of them would stick with it and make it through to refereeing matches. If we could get five or six new referees every year, that would be our objective.”
For the record, Mayo GAA currently have approximately 70 referees on their books but with 3,000 games played in the county per year, close to 100 officials are required to ensure things run smoothly.
The likes of Gerry Lohan from Balla, former Castlebar Mitchels footballer Russell Gibbons and Vinny Joyce from Claremorris are among the recent recruits to the refereeing club in Mayo. If you ‘Think you can do better?’ then head to MacHale Park next Tuesday night.