Munchin’s glad to back ‘respect the ref’ drive

There will be as much notice taken of the sidelines at St Munchin’s College in Limerick this morning as of the action on the pitch as the Corbally school unveils signage designed to make schools rugby games more respectful towards match officials.

The four pitches that have hosted the talents of so many future Munster, Ireland and Lions stars over the decades will, from today, be graced by gentle reminders that the sport of rugby should be both fun and respectful.

Each of the signs will bear that ethos with St Munchin’s asking spectators to remember eight key points including “the players are children”, “the coaches are volunteers” and “the referee is human”.

And to underline the message, the St Munchin’s junior and senior sides will face South African opposition in the form of VKB Invitational teams.

The games, starting at 11am, will be watched by Munster players from South Africa as well as former Munchin’s teacher Neil Cronin and former international referees John Lacey and past pupil George Clancy, with current teacher Eric Nelligan explaining the thinking behind the event.

“It all kind of came from these signposts,” Nelligan said.

Every coach in our school is a volunteer. We have no paid coaches, we’re probably the only school in Munster that’s left in that way. Everyone from the senior cup head coach all the way down to the first year third assistant coach, we’re all volunteers, whether that be teachers, parents or past pupils.

“Sometimes it happens at matches, there’s a little bit of messing going on, someone might be giving out to the referee or someone on the sideline might be giving out and it’s something, as a school, that we wanted to cut down and eliminate. So we decided to put up signposts up and around all four of our pitches. And then we decided to try and make a bit more of a deal out of it instead of just putting them up and forgetting about it.

“There are some South African schools teams going around the country which contacted us about playing matches so we decided to play the matches as part of a launch.

“We just thought this could be a nice thing to do, to highlight how important referees are, because in fairness, they are volunteers who get only their expenses and are giving up a couple of hours of their time to referee schools matches.

“We want to show our appreciation to them and send out a good message around the school.”

St Munchin’s principal David Quilter has also written an explanation of the decision to erect the signage.

“The key words are a summary of what the game is, or should be, about — ‘Welcome’, ‘respect’, ‘fun’, ‘applaud’, ‘praise’," Quilter wrote.

The signs are reminders, refreshers of sorts, for us all. We don’t want to leave behind our passion for sport but we can never lose sight of the respect we owe to our players, the opposition and, of course, the referee, which is a defining quality of our sport.

“Bad sideline behaviour is typically rooted in good intention, fueled by emotion, unsupported by education, and has a negative impact on the development environment we’re trying to deliberately create here in St Munchin’s.”

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