Referee Development


A key aspect of rugby refereeing is the welcome coaching received from our panel of Assessors. The role of the Assessor is to provide their experience and observations in an encouraging manner so that every referee is assisted in their development and improvement so that they can be the best that they can be. Assessment begins from the very first day that someone steps onto the pitch and takes on the responsibility of running the line and/or has the whistle in their hand/mouth. It is a valuable and key part of refereeing development and engagement. The image below shows Charlie Bourke providing useful feedback to match referee Keith Haverty at half time between Oughterard Rugby and Monivea RFC on Sunday 10th October 2021. Thank you Charlie and all our assessors.



Congratulations to Andy Fogarty who completed his first AIL match on October 2nd. Andy was supported on the day by Touch Judges Gareth Durkan and Jason Craughwell. Well done again Andy – final score Galwegians 23 Ballina 22.

So WHY not become a referee?


My friend’s question hung in the air, and I did not answer it, at first.

When it finally sunk in, there were a thousand questions on my mind- well at least a few dozen.  Time, fitness, it had been over 15 years since I had been on a Rugby pitch. Where would I train, how would I re-learn the laws. I need not have worried as from the off, I received nothing but support from the Association of Referees Connacht Branch (ARCB).

So, four months later, having completed training I found myself running a line at Creggs RFC, and for many, if not most, weekends since, I was no longer on a Golf course or tinkering in the garden or watching others kick a ball around on TV. I was now back on a pitch.

It took a little persuasion, and a realisation that I could not contribute beyond a certain level, that the body could not run or sprint as it used to. However, the level you referee at is not the thing. It is not required that you have played at a high level, it is sufficient that you follow the laws and preserve neutrality, fair play, and the spirit of the game.

That said, if you apply yourself, there is no limit, to where you can go, and some of you reading this may want to rise through the ranks and aspire to the top, and if so, you will find support and encouragement aplenty. So, what do you get in return? In short, lots. Some do it to keep fit, make new friends, enjoy the craic, and the slagging and the odd laugh. For others, it is the chance to deepen their knowledge of the game, to pit their wits against the elements, come rain or shine.

For me, it is somewhat different. It is the chance to do all of the above but rather, to give something back to the game. For those of a certain age- Jean-Pierre Rives, the blond French flanker said “The whole point of rugby is that it is, first and foremost, a state of mind, a spirit.”

That means giving back to a game that has given me so much as a fan, player and now as a referee. So why not you?

If you have played the game or worked as a volunteer in a club or school, I would encourage you to reach out now to Peter Fitzgibbon on 086 832 2987 or There is a new training course at the end of October, close to you.

So, why not you and why not now?

John O Boyle, PRO ARCB

On-Field Session 2021


In glorious sunshine on Saturday 28th August, 2021 we had our first on-field session (thanks for the pitch Galwegians RFC!) for sometime. Thirty seven referees (some young, some not so young) applied sunscreen and took part in an on-field session led by Peter Fitzgibbon. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn and discuss a little more about positioning and the new law trials. It was also an opportunity to belatedly present some awards from 2019. Congratulations to:

Paul Cronin – President’s Award

Andy Fogarty – Referee of the Year

John Quinn – Junior Referee of the Year

Sean Cooney – Young Referee of the Year

Clockwise from top left and presented by Jason Craughwell: Paul Cronin, Sean Cooney, John Quinn, Andy Fogarty.

Preseason Strength & Conditioning 2021


Our Preseason strength & Conditioning, led by Ann Caffrey, is in full swing on Monday evenings at the Sportsground. Group photo from left: Shane Tuohy, Gerry Geraghty, John O’Boyle, Andy Fogarty, John Quinn, John Martin, Kevin Bolger, Charlie O’Donoghue.

Return to Action in August!


The new season is almost upon us. Fixtures are scheduled to resume from 14th August. In preparation for what we hope will be a fixture-packed season ahead Strength and Conditioning for all active referees begins from 7pm to 8pm next Monday 19th July at the Sportsground.

In addition please save the date for our preseason meeting scheduled for Thursday 12th August at 7pm online. Dial in details will be distributed via email.

And now for some fun….we are planning a small social event to kick off the new season (in accordance with present and future restrictions). Stay tuned for further details!

ARCB Claire Toolan Appointment Down Under!


Congratulations to Claire Toolan ARCB for her appointment as AR1- Western Force vs Presidents XV- 24TH June at 2 pm – Coffs Harbour Stadium. You are a credit to yourself, your family and the Association. Well done from all of us at ARCB and we look forward to welcoming you back!

Memories of Danny O’Neill

I would like to share a few thoughts on the late Danny O’Neill who passed away in Athlone, 18th March 2021, after an illness. 

Danny started refereeing in 1992, served a year in the AIL 98/99, and went on to be Association President in 2002/03.

I recall him refereeing Blake 7s (1993), and Creggs vs NUIG (1999),  as well as Touch  judging.  He refereed at least one Junior Cup final in the late 90s. He got injured when he had been appointed to a Schools Senior Cup final. Leg injuries did hamper him thereafter.

He was of particular assistance to me in my first season starting out in 2002, and was U16 coordinator for new members. At an U16 game one day, he told me to stop putting the whistle cord around my neck. “That’s what the GAA do!” He showed me how to wrap the cord around the fingers.  He tutored me on positioning and signalling.

I went to Westport for a U16 match a few weeks later. No teams were there. I rang Danny. “Did you not ring the Home club?” he asked. I had learnt my lesson. He told me he had driven to Clifden from Athlone for a Senior League match a few years earlier – no teams.

Another story he told me: Warren Gatland was playing for Galwegians in the mid 1990s. Danny observed he had illegal boots on, and told him to remove them. He didn’t. Danny: If you come out with those, I will send you off!

Danny was direct, and to the point. He was insistent that his club name was Athlone RFC, and didn’t value the Buccaneers title.

In his year as President, he pushed for new members.  I recall a monthly meeting in McGanns, Monivea, where he wanted to spread them regionally.

In his time on the committee the senior members would have prepared and lead the talks on Law, and match situations. The downstream effect of professionalism has changed the format of meetings, which now involve IRFU Development officers, and Video analysis.

Other people would have found him strong willed, and forthright. I found him principled, genuine and sincere.  He was succinct in his match reviews, and had good Law knowledge.

My sympathies to his family,  wife Catherine, son Dermot, daughter Emma, daughter-in-law Emily, and grandchildren.

Danny served his club, his community, and gave dedicated service to the Referees.  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.

John Martin,

Secretary,  ARCB

27th March 2021.

IRFU Referee Department Event


Following on from our very successful evening in December 2020, when all 4 Referee Associations/Society came together to learn from Dr Tadgh MacIntrye, the Referee Department are pleased to announce another event this month.

We will be joined by GAA Referee David Gough on Tuesday 26th January at 19.30 – 20.30.

David, a teacher by profession, took up refereeing in 2007. He rose up through the GAA officiating ranks to become one of the most successful GAA referees. He has now refereed the 4 major finals:

·         2013 All-Ireland Under 21 Football Championship Final

·         2015 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final

·         2017–18 All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship Final

·         2019 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final

Most recently he has refereed the 2020 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi Final.

David will talk us through some of his refereeing experiences, as well as many transferable skills we as rugby referees can use such as Preparation, Fitness, Control and Communication. We very much look forward to having all four Referees Associations/Society come together for what should be a very informative and entertaining evening with David.

The link to the meeting will be forwarded through the Secretary.