Referee Maggie Farrelly makes GAA history in Garvaghey

Fermanagh 1-13 St Mary’s 0-14: It might have taken 132 years to get to this point, but the sight of a woman taking charge of a senior inter-county match for the first time was fairly memorable when it came.
Referee Maggie Farrelly makes GAA history in Garvaghey

, not in the comfortable surroundings of Croke Park, but in the wind and rain of Garvaghey, the home of Tyrone GAA.

All girls like a bit of glitz and glamour but having waited so long for her big moment, we can assume the Laragh United woman didn’t mind the less salubrious surroundings as she took her first step towards a national appointment in the not so distant future.

This Dr McKenna Cup tie between Fermanagh and St Mary’s was but a mere footnote to the bigger story with Farrelly’s appointment — a progressive step by the GAA’s Ulster Council — the only show in town.

While her slight frame was dwarfed by some of the bulk on the field, Farrelly quickly settled into her task, showing an impressive level of fitness to more than keep up with the play.

Her most testing moment came in the 28th minute.

On penalising Fermanagh’s Tomas Corrigan for over-carrying, she heard the first cries of derision from the line and a few hundred Erne spectators taking shelter in the small stand.

When Corrigan and former Tyrone player Danny McBride subsequently tangled with each other, she consulted with a linesman before booking both players.

However, it is St Mary’s forward Matthew Fitzpatrick who will be the name featuring in pub quizzes for years to come, after being sent-off by Farrelly in the 57th minute for two yellow card offences.

The Ulster Council have not always been the first to say ‘yes’ over the years on important GAA issues, but the plaudits go to the northern province on this occasion.

Martin McAviney, president of the Ulster Council, has taken a special interest in her career in recent years having watched her take charge of an All-Ireland ladies final in 2014 and senior county championship matches in Cavan since she first took up the whistle in 2008.

Having already taken charge of an Ulster minor championship match in 2015, he sees last night’s appointment as another step on the road but insists she is not, and will not, be fast-tracked.

It’s clear she is here on merit, and like her male counterparts, anything she gets, she will have to earn.

“I see it as a progression, and I see no difference between Maggie and the rest of them (referees).

“Maggie has come on to our Ulster GAA academy scheme, which is where we bring all our referees together and the promise we made referees was we would make them as good as they could be, and Maggie came through that system.

“I did keep a closer eye on how she is progressing, only because it was new and people have to take a chance — not because she is a woman.

“She deserves to get a fair crack of the whip the same as everybody else.”

McAviney has tipped her to make it onto the National Referees Committee “in two or three years time”.

“I would like to see that she does it in stages, so that no-one rushes Maggie or the system. I would like her to get an appointment when she is ready, and when is comfortable with it herself.”

Elsewhere, Antrim defeated Queen’s by 1-13 to 1-11 at the QUB Arena in Belfast.

Scorers – Fermanagh: T Corrigan (0-6, 2f), C Flaherty 1-1, S Quigley 0-4 (2f), E Donnelly 0-1, B Mulrone 0-1

St Mary’s: D Kavanagh 0-5 (5f), K McKernan 0-3, R Johnston 0-1, D McBride 0-1, M Fitzpatrick 0-1, P McBride 0-1, C McCann 0-1, N McNicholl 0-1

FERMANAGH: C Snow; A Breen, B Mulrone (0-1), K Connor; C Flaherty (1-1), C Jones, F Gillen; D McCusker, E McHugh; E Donnelly (0-1), J Duffy, J McMahon; P Cadden, M Jones, T Corrigan (0-6, 2f) Subs: P McCusker for Clarke (HT), D McCusker for McManus (HT), D Kelly for McMahon (45), S Quigley (0-4, 2f) for Cadden (47),

ST MARY’S: R Burns; P McAleer, D McBride (0-1), C McCooey; K McKernan (0-3), N McParland, H Loughran; P Carragher, B Og McGilligan; P McBride (0-1), C McCann (0-1), R Johnston (0-1); D Kavanagh (0-5, 2f), M Fitzpatrick (0-1), N Toner Subs: N McNicholl (0-1) for McGilligan (HT)

Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).

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