'A lot of people think referees are getting paid. We get absolutely nothing for refereeing above in Croke Park'

Leading hurling referee Fergal Horgan feels the level of criticism targeted at officials is unfair.
'A lot of people think referees are getting paid. We get absolutely nothing for refereeing above in Croke Park'
Anthony Daly and Mark Landers with referees Fergal Horgan and Conor Lane in the Irish Examiner podcast studio yesterday.
Anthony Daly and Mark Landers with referees Fergal Horgan and Conor Lane in the Irish Examiner podcast studio yesterday.

Leading hurling referee Fergal Horgan feels the level of criticism targeted at officials is unfair.

Hurling officials have come under scrutiny recently for awarding too many frees, with former Tipperary manager Babs Keating describing the handling of the recent Allianz League clash of Dublin and Wexford as the worst he had ever seen.

In football, meanwhile, there has been an increased focus on the role of umpires in the wake of David Clifford’s controversial sending off against Tyrone.

Tipperary man Horgan, who refereed the 2017 All-Ireland final, feels the debate has become too personalised.

Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast, he said: “There’s a lot of throwaway comments about umpires. Do people forget, we go to a match where we get no match fee for doing the match.

“The umpires get nothing at all for being at the match — no mileage, nothing.

“They get their dinner on the way home. They don’t get a pass for the National League, even. And here we are, criticising four umpires that are there just because they love the game, and have been brought up with you and want to do what they can for you.

“These are the same lads who will be at a Fitzgibbon Cup match with me.

“Players are well looked after. A lot of them are getting company cars and good jobs. We get none of those perks.

“A lot of people think referees are getting paid. We get absolutely nothing for refereeing above in Croke Park — only 50 cent a mile from Tipperary to Croke Park and home. €120 for the day, we’re gone at 10 in the morning and home at 10 at night.

“When people are criticising umpires and referees — and I know people are trying to be balanced in their view — they should take that into account.”

Also speaking on the podcast, Cork referee Conor Lane — who has refereed three All-Ireland finals — disagrees with the idea that umpires should be independently assigned to matches.

“Your umpires are with you from the start. They are the lads you trust. I wouldn’t have got three All-Irelands only for the lads I have with me.

“I heard it said lately that the people hosting the game should supply umpires. We couldn’t land onto a venue and have to brief four fellas. We need our own umpires. We trust them, and we are used to them.

“To be fair to the ref in Tyrone, he was booking a player, the incident happened behind his back, and it was just the information he got from the umpire was the incorrect information. You just hold your hand up when you get it wrong. As refs and umpires, we do get things wrong.”

Put to him that linesmen are doing enough to help referees out, Horgan says plenty of unseen communication goes on between the match officials.

“We do interact with one another, but you can’t have the linesman refereeing the match. And there are linesmen out there who would like to referee the match. You can’t have that scenario.

“We do correspond with each other. He’s mic’d up to me. We do communicate. My umpires are wired up as well, one at each end. We’re talking to each other before anyone sees any decision is made.”

He also refutes the idea that there is a different style of officiating for league and championship matches.

“Referees are like the players. They are getting up to speed as well. They have to get to a high level of fitness now early in January, while we didn’t before until the end of January.

“It often takes a referee one or two matches to get up to speed as well and he might start blowing things that he’d be sharper on during the summer.

“But I wouldn’t necessarily change my style much from league to championship. You might blow more frees in the wintertime because there are more frees. But in the summer the game becomes way quicker and you don’t need to blow as much. There’s not as much pulling and dragging.

“There’s also an onus on management to know who’s refereeing and what they are picking up on, rather than criticising refs.

“Managers spend so much money on analysis, they should know what Fergal Horgan is going to pull next Sunday or what Conor Lane will pull.”

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