Dermot Gallagher explains how he got to referee an Ireland match despite being born here

Former Premier League match official talks to Off The Ball about current refereeing issues

Ireland, Russia, Dermot Gallagher, referee,

Referee Dermot Gallagher during the Ireland vs Russia game in 2002. Picture by Phil Walter EMPICS Sport

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher knows a thing or two about how tough it is for the man in the middle during a match.

The issue of officiating is never far from the news and a few decisions in recent weeks have brought it to the forefront of debate once again.

Dublin-born Gallagher refereed in the Premier League from its inception in 1992 all the way to 2007 and he joined Off The Ball on Tuesday night to share his view.

But they also touched on another part of his career as a ref.

Despite being Irish-born, Gallagher refereed an Ireland international friendly match against Russia in 2002, which is remarkable as FIFA does not normally allow referees to officiate in matches involving their own nations.

Referee Dermot Gallagher orders Arsenal's Ashley Cole away. Picture by Joe Giddens EMPICS Sport

He said: "I was getting to the end of my FIFA career and my adopted uncle - everybody thinks he's my uncle but he's not a blood relative - Paddy Daly arranged with the FAI that they would get permission off FIFA to referee this pre-World Cup game in 2002. So in February 2002, I refereed Ireland against Russia in Landsdowne - couldn't believe it!

"So for the boy born 400 yards down the road [from Landsdowne Road] suddenly refereeing my national team was absolutely surreal.

"It was the moment of my life. I remember when the national anthem played, I just looked up to heaven and thought about my Dad and times he'd taken my to Landsdowne Road to watch the players play when I was a young boy and there's nothing I can say to explain it. It was just absolutely surreal."

On the issue of refereeing matches, Gallagher explained that diving by players became much more common as more and more overseas players arrived in the Premier League but that it is now an issue pertaining to players regardless of nationality.

Gallagher also talked about what he regards to be his worst refereeing decision.

He also shared one revelation that in his 22 years as a professional referee, "I only met one referee out of all that time that I thought was more in love with himself than the game - but he was like that off the field as well!" 

And in terms of the best referees around, Gallagher felt current Premier League ref Mark Clattenburg is one of the best he's ever seen.