Brian Gavin on the sacrifices referees have to make in the GAA

James McGrath became the latest high-profile official to retire

BY 16:06 Friday 10 August 2018, 16:06 10 Aug 2018

Former hurling referee Brian Gavin believes referees are given no “incentives” for the “sacrifices” they make towards the game.

Gavin called time on his career as an official in January after refereeing four All-Ireland finals in six years – with the most recent final coming in 2016.

But James McGrath’s decision to retire from the inter-county referee panel after being overlooked for the 2018 final has brought the life of a referee into sharp focus.

And Gavin defended McGrath’s choice as he offered a glimpse into a typical day for a referee in the GAA.

“It’s worth it when you’re getting the big games,” Gavin told Shane Stapleton on The Hurling Show.

“But when you’re down refereeing Division 2 or 3 running as a linesman [it isn’t worth it].  

“I remember travelling to Cork for a league game one night. I left at 2:10pm and the game was at 7pm between Cork and Clare. I wasn’t home until 12:10am.

“I got 50c a mile and I was absolutely freezing and on my own in the van. There was nine, 10 or maybe even 12 hours gone out of my day.

“It was roughly about 120 miles for me down to Cork and you have the toll bridges. And you have to have a receipt when you pull in for your meal on the way home.

“I probably got €120 but 50 or 60 of that is going on diesel. You might €50 or €60 out of it by the end of the day and you’d get that if you went down to a local game that is three miles away and you would be back in an hour-and-a-half.

“That was one of the reasons I went to Croke Park a couple of years ago with a few incentives. What is the incentive for referees – apart from the big games – to become a referee?

“How are we selling it? Or what are we doing to promote refereeing? That question has to be asked. It’s just volunteers going out. What are the credentials to be a referee?

“You do three nights out in your own county, a book on the rules – and then you’re handed a whistle. You’re out there on your own and it’s sink or swim.

“The amount of technology in the game is putting more and more pressure on the referee because with the amount of training the players do – they deserve to have most of the decisions correct on the day because it’s such a sacrifice for everyone involved.”

James Hopper


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