CORK County Board referees’ administrator Niall Barrett has concerns with regard to the number of match officials currently operating in the county but he is optimistic that recruitment will be strong over the next year or so.
At Tuesday night’s county board meeting, Barrett spoke of how some clubs currently don’t have any referees and he is keen to reach a situation where all of the clubs in Cork have at least one. Speaking to The Echo, he elaborated on the plans for the short-to-medium term.
“There are less than 200 in the county and that’s feeding into all games – underage GAA, ladies’ football and camogie as well as adult GAA,” he says.
“Some only do juvenile, some only do hurling, some only do football.
“On the other hand, the clubs who haven’t any referees don’t have that culture in the club.”
Barrett has approximately 100 referees on the county board panel and he is in contact with the referees’ administrators in each division so he is well-versed on the current situation and the need for more officials.
He is hopeful that proactivity can reap rewards.
“The Carbery model is the one that we want to use going forward,” he says.
“Donal Shorten is the referees’ administrator there and himself and Danny Warren and Declan Walsh – with the support of the secretary Donal McCarthy – they went around to every club in the division and now there’s nearly a referee in every club.
“All of the senior clubs are providing one and they have a dozen more to be trained and this is a model we’ll be asking other divisions to consider going forward.
“Colm Lyons, our referees’ recruitment officer, was appointed from Croke Park and he’ll be doing a root-and-branch examination of every club and division. A document will be put in place and every club will know where they sit.
“It’s something that every club will have to buy into. The clubs who don’t provide referees currently will get the assistance of present inter-county referees, former inter-county referees, everyone to help them to get referees.
“All of the past and present inter-county referees are very helpful to me in my job. We didn’t have tutors in Cork for a long time so at the moment I’m waiting for Colm Lyons, Michael Collins and Diarmuid Kirwan to be trained up by Croke Park.
“That will allow us to do foundation-level courses for new lads. We have up to 40 lads since early January who are waiting to be trained, and that’s a very good start.”
Obviously, any prospective referees might be put off the idea because of the potential for abuse. Barrett admits that there can be harsh words from supporters and is pleading for more understanding.
“People fail to understand that there’s good interaction between referees and players during games, in the main.
“Players just want to play and if they ask a question, they’re entitled to an answer, as long as they ask in a diplomatic manner.
“Our job as referees is to get players onside and there’s rarely a problem. I would be very happy with the way games are refereed. I sent certain instructions to referees on how I wanted the games to be refereed and I think they’re enjoyable.
“When matches resume, I’d ask people to just sit back and leave referees alone. For the junior B and C championship games, we’ll see a lot of new faces, four of those lads are in their early 20s and they’re well capable. This is what we want going forward.
“Refereeing is the next best thing to playing and those that do it do so because of the enjoyment rather than any monetary gain. All we’re asking for is a bit more respect and, if Covid allows, to be given a cup of tea at a match.
“Some of these lads are doubling up or trebling up over a weekend – in a club with two referees, one will be reffing in the afternoon and the other one in the evening, each doing the line for the other.”
Ideally, having a greater pool of referees would ease to pressure.
“I would like to see us, within a year and a half to two years, going from 200 up to 300,” Barrett says.
“With the amount of games we have, down to juvenile level we are struggling. It is possible, the ideal in time is that most clubs would have two referees.
“In the past, they were trained up but then just left to their own devices and we lost some, unfortunately.
“Every team deserves quality refereeing. Mentoring, monitoring and retention are our main core values. If everyone buys into this, it’ll work.”