"If you haven't got abuse, there's something wrong" - Farrelly on the thankless job of being a ref 5 days ago

"If you haven't got abuse, there's something wrong" - Farrelly on the thankless job of being a ref

Maggie Farrelly accepts that, as a GAA referee, abuse just comes with the territory.

Which shows that, for all the talk about giving respect and getting respect and appreciating them and learning from rugby, as a community, and in the heat of the moment, the GAA still has an awful long way to go.


Because whether you're a player or a manager or a boardroom member, it doesn't reflect too well on the game that, at this stage in her career, Maggie Farrelly is already resigned to the fact that, when it comes to referees, mistakes, even of the most marginal nature, are rarely accepted with grace.

It's a thankless job and it's hardly surprising that, in counties all over the country, recruitment drives are in over-drive because referees are rare as hen's teeth.

"To be fair, if you haven’t got abuse, there’s something wrong," Farrelly said at launch of Supervalu's Community Includes Everyone Campaign.

"It’s part and parcel of our game. It’s nearly the expected norm to be abused in some way. It’s not just in Gaelic games. It’s across the board in a lot of sports, and not just in Ireland and across the world. Research would suggest it is an accepted norm across the world."


“When you’re going to referee a game you shouldn’t be subjected to abuse but if that happens, it should be dealt with accordingly."

So how does Farrelly, the first female ever to referee a men's county final, the first female ever to ref a men's inter-county game, deal with such abuse.


"It’s being able to deal with it.

"Communication is important," she says, "and while you’re not giving a commentary on every decision you make, there’s no harm in a player asking a question.

"There are rules to be implemented, so if players are challenging your authority, there’s a different way of dealing with it then too but there’s no harm in them asking a question."

As a player, communication is often all that's wanted from refs. There's nothing worse than a ref who point blank refuses to engage but Farrelly seems to deal with players the right way, by showing that she's only human too. Sometimes that's the only way to calm a player down.


"Being resilient and confident and being able to reflect back on things you could have done differently. You learn from the positives and you also learn from the areas of improvement. At the end of the day, you only have a second or two to see something, to decide on what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it."

"Of course abuse shouldn't be tolerated but that’s what accepted, nearly from the bottom up..

“We have a rulebook there to guide us and we have a committee in charge to deal with all of those issues."