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Charlestown’s Caoimhe makes headlines


ON DUTY Caoimhe Halligan is pictured during the recent Mayo GAA SFL Division 2 Final. Pic: Conor McKeown

Charlestown woman officiates at Mayo senior league final

Oisín McGovern

A CHARLESTOWN woman has become the first female GAA match official ever to officiate at a men’s Mayo GAA senior league final.
Caoimhe Halligan (24) was the lineswoman at the recent County Senior Football League Division 2 Final between Davitts and Parke/Keelogues/Crimlin last Sunday week, which was refereed by the experienced John Finn.
Caoimhe only recently become the first woman to officiate at an adult men’s GAA game in the county when she patrolled the line for a league meeting of Ardnaree and Cill Chomáin Gaels.
Speaking exclusively to The Mayo News following the presentation of the Division 2 trophy to Davitts captain Colm Boyle, the trailblazing official revealed how her journey from the playing field to the sideline began.
“My sister Sinéad is after getting on the refereeing council, and she text me, messing, saying ‘Would you like to do reffing in your spare time, now you’ve weekends free?’
“And I sarcastically replied, ‘Sure yeah, I’ll give it a go and see’. And then from there it went from her giving my number to someone and me getting a text saying, ‘Are you actually interested?’ It just went from there.”
An employee of Health Quarters Leisure Centres, Caoimhe admitted that she was ‘fairly nervous’ on her first day on the sideline.
“When you’re on the pitch as a player you tend to tune out from the stands anyways, so I kind of just tuned everything out, really,” she explained.
“I’m not going to lie, I was so nervous the first day. I couldn’t stop shaking, so I hear everything.
“I probably don’t know what I’ve let myself in for, but probably as it goes on, I’m sure it’ll get easier and it’ll be fine.”
A player with the Charlestown’s ladies’ team for most of her life, Caoimhe recently took a step back from playing after qualifying as a personal trainer.
She comes from a family steeped in the local GAA scene.
In her own words: “Gaelic just runs in the family; it runs in the blood.”
Her father Tommie has managed several teams in the past, while her sisters Sinéad and Fiona have done stats and physio for the Charlestown senior team.
Caoimhe played down a suggestion that she may follow in the footsteps of Cavan woman Maggie Farrelly, the first women ever to referee a men’s National Football League game.
“She has very high standards. I don’t know would I take it to her standard. I’d probably just be happy to keep myself going around club level,” she said.
“I’d love to say I’d be able to have the confidence to do what she did, I don’t think I’d have it in me,” she added with a chuckle.
Caoimhe admitted that it was only by chance that she heard about the refereeing course that set her on the path to making history this summer.
She believes that more needs to be done to encourage women to take up refereeing.
“I don’t think it’s promoted enough to be honest. There’s not really a push to getting women into doing reffing in women’s or in men’s,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have heard about a ref’s course only for my sister was involved. There was another girl in my course the time I did it this year, but even then, she only heard about it by pure fluke of someone else saying it.
“I think it should be pushed out there more that this isn’t just for men, that anyone can do it, that men or women can do it.
“Some people have an interest in Gaelic but don’t have an interest in playing, reffing would probably be good for them because some of them have a great knowledge of Gaelic. I think it’s just getting it out there that anyone can do it and it doesn’t have to be pre-dominantly male.”
Similarly, Caoimhe insisted that the culture of players and spectators abusing referees needs to change to make the job more enticing.
“You can disagree with a decision, fair enough. I’ve been there, done that, and I’ve been cursing refs out in my head. But at the end of the day, they are just a normal person, and they are just doing a job. If they didn’t do it, who would?”


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