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09th Jun 2020

Umpire Garland taking learnings and criticism from behind the goals

Niall McIntyre

Down the line, David Garland could see himself becoming a referee.

“If the wages were good,” he reasons.

For now, the Donaghmoyne dazzler is a Monaghan senior footballer and a part-time umpire. A full-time PE and Biology student in DCU and an occasional employee of Seamus McEnaney’s, a barman in Foley’s pub on Merrion Row.

It’s quite the schedule for a 21-year-old and Garland, the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup player of the year, broke it down for us recently.

The umpiring came about by chance but it’s taken him the “length and breadth” of this country. He’s stood behind David Clifford in an All-Ireland minor semi-final, and as all GAA officials do, he’s shipped his fair share of digs too.

“Ah umpiring, it can be a challenging game as well but I enjoy doing it, it gets you out of the house for a few hours.”

“There’s a fair few players that would dog you a couple of times on the posts. They wouldn’t hold back and you’re just saying to yourself, ‘Jesus Christ, do I act like that in games?’

“You’d be sort of thinking to yourself, at the end of the day it’s really worth saying nothing to the umpires. Because as every one of them says back to the players, ‘I’m not the one that has the whistle and it’s as simple as that.’

There aren’t many active players involved in GAA officialdom nowadays but Garland gets a good kick from it. Experience in the white coat has taught him to respect officials but he’s watching and learning too, sometimes from the best.

“I think the All-Ireland minor semi-final was Kerry and Kildare, David Clifford was playing that day and he scored nearly nine or ten points.”

“You were watching him, he was kicking them from everywhere. His movement inside – you were standing so close it was hard not to notice him. Even watching other great forwards playing from different counties, you’d pick up bits here and there. It’s really good to watch them.”

Never a dull moment, when the white coat is off Garland is pulling pints in the Monaghan managers’ pub.

“He’s a shrewd operator in business terms. He’s a good man to work for (Banty). We’d be slagging each other the whole time…”

In Monaghan, Garland’s elusive style and low centre of gravity has been marked out for a long time but he admits himself that earlier spells on the county panel weren’t all that enjoyable on the panel’s fringes.

“In 2018 that happened to me where you had no club football during the summer and in the evenings there where you’d just love to go out and play football, you were having to stand at the sidelines.

“You’re training obviously with the county but there’s only so much training you can do and then you’re not as sharp as you be playing matches. And then in 2019, I was looking down the road, could you see yourself getting game time? I probably couldn’t, and you had to make a decision on what was the next move because if you went and done another year of that without summer football, you’d find yourself losing confidence, losing sharpness, you’d nearly find yourself losing heed for football altogether…”

But with a talent like Garland’s, the sharpness comes quickly back. Despite his small stature, he hit 1-14 in the Sigerson Cup this year and has earned his way back into the county set-up.

Now the aim is to break through.

“I was always small growing up. It never inhibited me yet.

“If you get a bouncing ball in front of you, you always want to win them ones – if you can get the right ball, right supply in, I’d always be confident that I’d be able to get myself out in front and manoeuvre my body in a way that would suit me and be fit to work with it. The size is an issue, but you have to work on it. You can get sharper, get quicker so that if you do get the ball you can get around your man and then once you get an inch or two, that you’re confident shooting as well.”

Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Rising Star Football Player of the Year Winner 9/6/2020
Pictured is DCU DÉ’s David Garland who today received his Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Rising Star Football Player of the Year trophy.