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Fergal Barry, GAA Football Inter County Referee

Fergal Barry GAA Football Inter County Referee
Day Job: Financial Controller

Did you play GAA growing up?
Yes, I played from the early age of under 8’s right through to senior level with my club Monasterevin GFC, almost 28 years in total. I played hurling for a few years from under 16’s to under 21’s, but football was my first preference as college and exams kicked in.

Do you referee Hurling or Football?
I referee football, I felt it was better to stick with the game I was most familiar with and understood as I had a tendency to play, somewhat to the limit in my own day.

What qualifications do you need to become a referee?
Essentially none except vocalising your interest to a club committee that you have an interest in becoming one. You then have to undertake the referee’s training course, normally run annually within counties and pass the rules exam.
You start refereeing at locally at the underage levels and work your way up. I started in 2006, went onto the Leinster development panel in 2008 and onto the National referee panel in 2012.

Why did you become a referee?
I had played for so many years and always had an issue with the referee calls, so I just decided to see what it was like on the other side, never expecting to get the enjoyment from it that I do.

How does being a referee affect your daily / family life?
Mainly in the time involved with games, at club level it is normally only a few hours however at inter county level it is normally 6 or 7 hours away on average so the day is gone with regard to doing anything with the family.

Fortunately I have a family that understand that this is “my thing” as I have left golf etc. to one side for now.

Training is the other time consumer, but it is not an issue as I have always done some sort of training 2 or 3 nights a week.
I try to balance it, in that I only have one or two games a week during the busy months when both inter county and club collide (March – July).
Are there any exceptional moments good or bad you have experienced through refereeing, that will stay in your mind forever?
Despite what people might think the bad ones are few and far between and definitely not worth remembering.
But a few occasions do come to mind.
(1)The 2012 All Ireland Senior Championship knockout game between Kerry and Tyrone in Killarney. I was lines man that evening and the atmosphere throughout the game was spine tingling, you could feel every emotion from the crowd.
(2)First time refereeing in Croke Park in the 2012 Minor All Ireland quarter final between Mayo & Tipperary. I been on the line before but to be out in the middle was special.
(3)My first club county final, 2007 Minor Championship final and refereeing the 2009 Senior Championship final in Kildare.

Would you encourage young people to become a referee?
Absolutely! If a person has any inclination at all to have a go I would definitely recommend they give it a try. I understand it’s not for everyone but it is very enjoyable and you will not believe how much until you try.

What advice would you give to aspiring Referees?
Work at it and believe in the training you have received. In addition, stay fit and know your rules, this will allow you to be up with the play to make the decisions and get them right.
Don’t be afraid to apply the rules and accept that you will only be right with half the people all the time!

Have you ever changed your mind about a decision you have made on the pitch?
Other than small line ball, direction of free decisions No!

I may have thought about decisions afterward but I tend to call it as I see it at that moment in time and have confidence in that call. Without doubt I have made mistakes, however even when you do you need to move on and get it out of your mind because trying to make up for it by making another one will not make it right.

What is your opinion on the abuse and unsportsmanlike like conduct shown towards Referees in modern sport?
It is uncalled for and cannot be tolerated at any level in any sport. The GAA have recognised this as an issue and begun to address it over the last number of years. I believe it already has, and continues to improve.

It’s unfortunate that peoples frustration at their own team’s performance end up being aimed at the one person that is not playing, but they are I guess, only there for one team.

The referee, much to supporters disapproval at times, is there for both!

What do you find gratifying about Refereeing?  
I guess most of all, it’s just having the honour of being part of it all! It is a privilege to officiate at games whether it is at local club under age grade or senior inter county level.

It may be hard for some to believe, but I get as much enjoyment, if not more sometimes, from refereeing as I got as a player.

Do you envy any referees in other sporting codes?
I don’t, because we have one of the fastest field games in the world albeit with a somewhat complex set of rules and I am privileged to be a part of a unique group of individuals that officiate at these games.

What do you think about the introduction of the black card? 
Overall I think it will have a positive effect on the game, especially on the blocking of players making support runs, but I do not think it will eliminate the cynical foul in the closing stages of a game to prevent scores.

What will define its success, will be how the mentors, players and referees are fully instructed for it to be implemented and of course how the mentors and players respond.

The early games of 2014 will be very interesting, a bit more paper work but very interesting indeed…….