CHRISTMAS is a time for giving and last week the Cork Referees Branch gave one of their annual awards to Togher man Grahame Duffy to honour his 25-year involvement in refereeing.
An award that he was hugely proud of and here he tells us about what it meant to him.
“It was an honour and a privilege to accept an Honorary Life Membership award for 25 years service to refereeing last Monday at the Kiln from our chairman and good friend Edwin McNally,” said Duffy. "I was also delighted that my wife Jackie was also present and able to share in it as she has been my rock throughout. I'd like to take this opportunity to show her my appreciation for all she's done for me over the years.
"She keeps reminding me of the time she was doubled over in pain while in labour with our son Christopher on a Friday night while I was on the phone to Eddie Mullins trying to get rid of my match on the Saturday," laughs the father of two from Tramore Road."
He started refereeing in August 1998, mainly in the AUL.
"I've also refereed in the Munster Senior League, Cork Business League and Ladies League and have helped out in Schoolboys League when I could, all of which I enjoyed. I've been involved in all the AUL finals except for the AOH, which I hope to add this year whether refereeing or assisting. I've refereed Corinthians, Presidents, Saxone and County Cup finals."
A final in Turner's Cross is always a goal each season, while St Colman's Park is also a top venue. Duffy was in charge of the Cork Business League Premier Division Cup final and the MSL John Hayes Cup decider lately.
"I still enjoy going to a game to watch the top referees and learning from them as you never stop learning when it comes to refereeing. I've enjoyed working with some of the greats over the years notably the late Tom Tully, Willie Long, Freddie Murray, Aidan O'Regan, Robbie Cregan and I can't leave out the legend that is Eddie Mullins just to name a few."
All the referees are currently enjoying a deserved break over Christmas though there is the Cork Branch of Irish Soccer Referees Society on Wednesday in Mayfield United at 11am.
"Both teams consist of referees. All proceeds go to the renal unit in CUH so all are welcome to come and watch and all donations are welcome. I'm looking forward to it as it's always great craic."
He played at junior level with Everton AFC, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
"The highlight was the double-winning team from 1990-'91 under Tadg Goggin when we won both the league and the Presidents Cup.
"I still try to get out to watch any Everton team when I get a chance as most of the time my own games would clash so it wouldn't be as often as I'd like and also getting to meet some old friends at the games. It's great to see how the club has come on over the years with some great people behind the scenes of which my uncle David Duffy is one and also to see their thriving academy with young boys and girls coming through and all the hard work and commitment going on there. Keep up great work guys."
He also spent a couple of seasons with Greenwood under the great Pat O'Connor.
“On average I get to referee two or three games a week. Becoming a referee is something I'd highly recommend if someone is thinking about it. Especially to young men and women as there are great opportunities there for them. There are always courses available.
"Even after that if you don't take it up then at least you'll get to know the laws of the game, which a lot of teams don't know still!
"OK some say 'what about the abuse?' Granted it's definitely the worst part of refereeing but again you learn how to deal and manage it as you progress. Hand on heart I can safely say I really enjoy my refereeing even though my career may not be up there with the best of them.”