From Februarys Kings Match Program
A warm welcome to today’s officiating team. Sadly at time of writing I have no idea who they are.
We wish to extend warm congratulations to Joy Neville on her recent Pro 14 appointment. She added another piece of history to her already impressive CV when she took charge of Ulster’s 59-10 win over Southern Kings in the Guinness Pro14 at the Kingspan Stadium.
The 34-year-old became the first female official to referee a fixture in the tournament’s history.
She was of course named World Rugby Referee of the Year in November, a month after taking charge of her first international between Norway and Denmark. After winning 70 caps which included helping Ireland complete a Gram Slam on the way to claiming the Six Nations title in 2013, she took steps to become a referee.
Since then, she has progressed from serving as an assistant referee to taking charge of high-profile games such as Friday’s PRO14 fixture in Belfast.
Sean Gallagher Q&A
Sean Gallagher has come through the Leinster and IRFU referee system before making his Guinness PRO14 in 2013 when Zebre met Edinburgh.
An IRFU Young Referee of the Year in 2009, Gallagher recently completed the PRO14’s referee’s Q&A to give us a glimpse into his rugby career and his interests outside the game.
What are your earliest rugby memories?
I remember watching Ireland play as a schoolboy on the terraces at Lansdowne Road, I must have been ten or 12 years old at the time and I definitely remember us winning against England.
When did you first get involved in the sport?
I started playing at secondary school, St Patrick’s Classical in Navan but it was a massive Gaelic football school and they went on to win the All-Ireland competition.
What position did you play when you were younger?
I played at scrum-half, mainly because I was just too small to play anywhere else!
What do you like to do outside rugby?
I like going to the gym and travelling. I was over in Vietnam a few years ago and I want to go back when I can. I try to travel to places where there’s less rugby played and rugby has certainly not taken off there yet.
What other sports do you enjoy?
I like Gaelic football and hurling, I follow them both quite a bit, I follow Meath unfortunately there’s not been much recent success. I think last time we won the All-Ireland was 1999, so we have struggled.
If you weren’t a referee, what would you be doing?
I would still be a secondary school teacher, I taught English and History. People say you must have been a PE teacher but I taught what I was good at myself. I had good teachers in those subjects.
If you could change one rugby law, what would it be?
That’s a good question, I think we are doing pretty well on the laws at the moment. But I would bring in something that would reduce the stoppages in a game. Towards the end of each half teams make lots of substitutions so maybe we have them at a certain time to prevent multiple stops. There’s potentially 16 changes plus injury and blood during a match so if the coaches want to slow the game, they can.
What is your pre-match routine before a game?
The main thing I like to do is have a sleep before a game, then I like to be in the stadium nice and early and I put on music in the changing room to create a nice atmosphere. There tends to be a lot of people in the referee’s room. Music is always controversial so I put on whatever is in the charts but you can never please everyone.
What do you discuss with your assistant referees ahead of a match?
Before a game, I will meet the team to go over everything that may happen in the 80 minutes. When we get to stadium we have to warm up and concentrate on the game. We talk about a lot of things, all the styles of rugby, the surface it’s played on, but a lot of that preparation is done in the week leading up to the game.
What advice would you give to an up-and-coming referee?
The best way to learn is going and do it. Do as many games as you can and you will learn from mistakes, which you will make. Maybe a couple of times a week.
What is your favourite memory of refereeing a match?
I have lots of favourites so that’s a tough question. I have been involved in a few knockout matches in the European Challenge Cup which are probably the highlight – they have always been massive experiences and ones I won’t forget.
What do you discuss with fellow referees when you get together?
We work in the IRFU high performance team so we meet up every week and we’re always talking to each other about rugby. When we are not working, we get on really well so we can chat about anything. We are a tight group and all get on but mainly its sports or holidays.
Want to get involved?
Feel free to make contact with the Leinster Rugby Referees at email@example.com or contact by phone Denis Collins at 01-2235107 or David O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming a referee get in contact with us through our Facebook and Google + pages, our website www.arlb.ie or through twitter @leinsterreferee.