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Mayo referee gets cup final call

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THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE Kevin Cox, a native of Kilmeena, will take charge of next Sunday’s Connacht Cup Final. Pic: John Corless

Feature
John Corless

GIVEN the high standard of refereeing within the Mayo League, it’s no surprise that a team of Mayo officials have been appointed to the TP Brennan Connacht Cup Final in Galway next Sunday.
Kilmeena native Kevin Cox will take the whistle, with John Mulroe, Martin Halligan and Ann Sweeney completing the team of officials. Ballinasloe Town and Salthill Devon will contest the final at 2pm in Eamonn Deacy Park in Galway.
“I’m looking forward to it, it’s an honour to get it,” Kevin told The Mayo News.
“It’s a personal honour and an honour for the local referees’ branch. It’s nice to be representing Mayo on the day and hopefully we will do everyone proud. For most junior referees, the Connacht Cup is a great appointment to get.”
Kevin, who now lives in Castlebar, has been refereeing for eighteen years. He said he was introduced to the role by the legendary Mick Walsh, a former player and veteran referee.
“I was working on grounds maintenance at Milebush and watching the matches,” Kevin said. “I always had a great interest in the game and I met Mick and he asked me if I’d consider taking it up. I was fairly fit at the time. I was playing handball and you have to be reasonably fit for that. So I decided to give it a go. I loved the refereeing when I started and I still do.”
Kevin added that he never played soccer other than kick-about games in school.  
He has always been keen on fitness and does a lot of training on his own.
“I like to keep myself relatively fit,” Kevin said. “I run 5ks regularly. I do sprints, short runs, long runs. Every referee has to keep in good shape.”
Kevin’s preparation won’t be much different for the final.
“The main preparation will be to get my mind right for it. I’ll be thinking about it for the week and hopefully everything will go well on the day.”
Kevin says that over the years he has observed the development of the game in Mayo.
“The game is always going forward. Everyone is trying to do their best. The league, clubs, players, managers. Everyone is trying to be better every year. Referees too.
“When changes to the laws of the game come in, a referee has to learn quickly and adapt to the changes. You have to be willing to learn. The referee’s job is to implement the rules. “We’re always doing educational programmes in Mayo, to keep learning and to keep ourselves sharp. We have a great chairman in Damien McGrath. He’s always on top of these things and constantly educating the referees.”
Kevin puts the high standard of refereeing in the county down to the way individual refs apply themselves to learning the laws of the game, working on their fitness, and the leadership provided by McGrath.
“Damien is a great leader and inspiration. He is at the top of his game in the League of Ireland and that professionalism filters through to the referees in Mayo.”
Regarding getting marginal calls accurate, Kevin says that concentration and the positioning of the referee on the pitch is crucial and something they are taught.
“You can only be taught about positioning to a certain point,” he adds.
“You have to learn individually from experience. Sometimes disputed decisions can be down to angle of view. An offside or a penalty claim can look completely different from the sideline than from where the referee is standing.
“Managers and officials can see it differently and that’s something a referee has to learn to deal with and make sure he or she is in the right position to make the correct call, because every referee wants to get every call right.”
The last Mayo official to take charge of a Connacht Cup Final was when Martin Halligan refereed the 2017 final.

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