Fergal Horgan says GAA referees are fitter than ever, but fears hurling and football are losing referees due to increasingly stringent fitness requirements on officials.
To make the Championship panel, referees are asked to achieve an impressive 17.6 on the universal fitness “bleep test”. They must achieve level 16.8 in January to ref in the League.
“Croke Park have to set the standard somewhere,” said Conor Lane. “I’d no Christmas. I had to train. You have to watch your diet. You do your gym programmes, have a personal trainer, things like that.
“17.6 is our mark for the Championship, so you aim for that. If I want to make the Championship panel, I have to make it. I’ll do everything I can to get it — gym, training, recovery — and I enjoy the challenge.”
Hurling has lost a number of experienced referees in recent years and Horgan feels more should be done to hold onto officials who may be just short of the fitness marks.
“I don’t think we should be losing anyone because of it. We should be trying to get these boys over the line on it.
“When Brian Gavin was refereeing, Brian will tell you himself he found it hard to get over the line on the fitness. But was he able to referee, by God was he able.
“He was gone at 40, same age as I am today. Could we have done with Brian over the last three years? Absolutely.
“He went of his own accord, but one of the factors was, he knew he’d find it hard to get over the line (on the fitness) But could you put more into him? Get him into a gym, put someone looking after him properly. It might cost €1000 per year. But I don’t think we should lose anyone, unless he’s at 14 [on the bleep test] and he’s six stone overweight and he has no chance of passing the fitness test.
“There was 10 years left in Brian. We need them all. “