GAA referees in Cork will be asked to take charge of at least four games each weekend when county championship action throws-in later this month, according to Cork County Board referees’ administrator Niall Barrett.
The reworked Cork county championship programme commences on the weekend of July 24-26, with 26 football games down for decision across Premier Senior, Senior, Premier Intermediate, and Intermediate.
The Junior A and B football championships in Cork’s eight divisions are also pencilled in to begin that weekend, meaning Barrett’s pool of just under 200 referees will have a demanding schedule of games to get through, while they can also expect to be asked to help out with underage, camogie, and ladies football fixtures in the county.
Former inter-county referee Barrett has said there are enough referees in Cork to meet the demands of the heavily condensed county championship programme unveiled this week, but he did add that referees can expect to be stepping inside the whitewash on more than three occasions during the weekends of group stage action.
“From Friday to Sunday, most referees would do an average of three games. They will probably be asked to stretch further this summer. There is no point in codding oneself,” remarked Barrett of the busy schedule facing Cork referees.
“I am conscious of the demands that are going to be put on officials. A lot of the divisions will be looking for them to referee matches, be it underage, ladies football, or camogie. They’ll all be drawing from the same pool.”
The referees’ administrator said no Cork referee has yet signalled their unwillingness to officiate games this summer because of Covid-19 fears.
Where he envisages difficulty is ensuring the linesmen on duty at each county championship game possess some sort of a refereeing qualification.
The decision of the board executive not to permit double-headers in the months ahead means the common practice of doubling up officials — whereby one of the linesmen from the first game of a double-header takes charge of the second game, and vice versa — is not possible.
But irrespective of the inevitable challenges in this area, Barrett said neutrals without any refereeing qualifications will not be asked to man the sideline.
“That day is gone,” he noted
“Umpiring could be an issue because they are an elderly group in the main but we will jump that hurdle when we get to it.
“No referee has said their usual umpires are unavailable. But as we get nearer the date, things may alter. We won’t pressurise anyone. It is a voluntary thing, especially umpiring and linespeople. They don’t get anything at all.
“In Cork, we have a dedicated group of referees. Football-wise, we are pretty okay, but unfortunately, going into the hurling championship, two of our top referees, Nathan Wall and Diarmuid Kirwan, are injured.”
Following on from comments from National referees development chairman Willie Barrett that referees will have to travel alone to games unless their umpires are family members, his Cork namesake said geography will be taken into account when referees are being assigned to games.
“I’ll be trying, where possible, to get referees reffing games closer to where they live so as to rule out long journeys.”
Niall Barrett concluded: “We hope to get guidance from Croke Park around the new football rules and I hope to get around the county to talk to referees about them before we begin. That would be the main concern. I have had a few calls about it already.”