Referees struggling to meet stringent fitness standards

Intercounty referees are struggling to meet the GAA’s fitness standards, with high-profile match officials failing monthly fitness assessments.

Intercounty referees must reach a certain level in a monthly bleep test to remain in consideration for intercounty games, but it has emerged that some referees cannot reach the required level at the monthly tests, held in regional GAA centres, which rules them out of handling games.

Yesterday Sean Walsh, the GAA’s chairman of referee development, defended the Association’s drive to ensure officials are fit to handle games played at an ever-faster pace.

Walsh pointed out that it would be unfair to judge referees on a single fitness test, which is why testing is carried out on a continuous basis through the year.

“Referees are fitness-tested in January before the National Leagues start, the first week in May and the end of June,” said Walsh.

“In the meantime we’ve been having fitness tests every month in regional venues around the country.

“We have different (fitness) levels for the league and for the championship, when they get fitter later in the year. We have those fitness criteria and if they don’t fulfil those, then they don’t referee games.

“They always get an opportunity to prove their fitness — there might be a ref off with injury, or a touch of flu, so you don’t put everything into one fitness test.

“That wouldn’t be fair, and that’s why we test them continuously over the year, and the main tests are January, May and June.

“If they don’t pass the test, though, they don’t referee the matches. There’s no question of an unfit referee being on the panel for matches.”

The GAA usually finalises its intercounty refereeing panels for the championship season in April.

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