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Mayo referee gets FAI Cup Final


THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE Referee Damien McGrath will be in charge of the FAI Cup Final between Derry City and Shelbourne next weekend. Pic: Sportsfile

Damien McGrath will take charge of next Sunday’s big game

John Corless

ERRIS native Damien McGrath has been appointed to referee next Sunday’s FAI Cup Final between Derry City and Shelbourne at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
“I’m absolutely honoured to get an appointment like this,” the well-known official told The Mayo News. “It will be my sixth FAI Cup Final but my first as referee. I’ve been in five others in different roles - three as an assistant referee, one as an additional referee, and last year as the fourth official. There’s always competition from other referees for big matches and I’m delighted to get the appointment.”
This is Damien’s twentieth year as a referee; he first took the whistle in 2002 and joined the Elite Panel of Referees in 2005.
“I was an assistant from 2007 to 2016,” explained the secondary school teacher, “and I took charge of my first game as a League of Ireland referee in 2016, a First Division game, a Dublin derby between UCD and Shelbourne.”
Damien also gave The Mayo News an insight into the preparations a referee makes for a big match like next Sunday.
“I’ll be working with the refereeing team for the few weeks leading up to the final,” he said. “We’ll watch videos of both teams to see how they set-up tactically. It’s just preparation for how to approach the match. Being aware of what the referee needs to do and when you need to be on the field of play. It’s about being best prepared for the role and that is what we are encouraged to do.”
Damien is a native of Pollathomas and is living in Castlebar since 2002. He teaches Irish, Maths and French at Scoil Muire agus Pádraig in Swinford.
He explained the difference between said League of Ireland games and Mayo League games from his perspective.
“Players accept a little more contact in the League of Ireland, but you still have big decisions to make. The pace is quicker.”
As for the crowd at big matches, Damien says he doesn’t hear them.
“All you hear is noise. At a local ground the voices are a little more individual so you might pick out a voice.”
Jimmy Blake, the lead referee’s observer for the FAI for Mayo, said Damien’s appointment was well-deserved.
“Damien is the most decorated referee we have in the county from his time as an assistant on the UEFA and FIFA panels,” Jimmy told The Mayo News. “It was only a matter of time before he would be given an honour and this is the highest honour within the FAI, to referee the FAI Cup Final.  
“Anyone involved in Mayo football knows what Damien has brought to the game. His appointment is something we will embrace here in Mayo, he has set the standard for referees in the county. Hopefully more young people will go on to take up the whistle and maybe go on to achieve what he has achieved. He has a lot going for him.
“He has a great personality, he’s a nice lad, a very decent lad, and he’s chairman of the Referees’ Society here in Mayo. Not only that, what he brings to refereeing and to the game overall is exceptional. He has set the standard in the county and the province, and we wish him the best of luck.”
“It’s a very prestigious fixture,” added Seamus Hughes, Chairman of the Mayo League.
“It’s great to have a referee of that standard in our league working on a weekly basis. We congratulate him wholeheartedly and wish him well, and we’ll be watching.”

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