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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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