History beckons for GAA as Maggie Farrelly set to take charge of senior inter-county game
History will be made at Brewster Park, Enniskillen on January 3, when for the first time, a female referee will take charge of an inter-county senior match.
The meeting of Fermanagh and St Mary’s in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup might usually only attract the interest of those within the Erne county and the teaching college.
But given that Cavan official Maggie Farrelly will be throwing the ball in, the match is set to become a perennial GAA quiz question for the years to come.
Brian Crowe, the Cavan referee who officiated the 2006 All-Ireland final, said that there is huge pride within the Breffni county for Farrelly as she breaks the mould.
He also suggested that players would grant her more respect than they might to a male referee.
According to Crowe, Farrelly has managed to gain the respect of players all the way up the refereeing ladder.
"The fact that she is a female, I would have a tendency to believe that she gets more respect from players than some male counterparts get," he said.
"I have never heard of any abuse hurled at her. She has to make the big calls, and she is not afraid to make them."
Crowe, who is a provincial and national referees' advisor, said that Laragh United's Farrelly has had plenty of experience within her own county in taking charge of important senior matches.
"She has been appointed to semi-finals of the senior Championship and quarter-finals, along with a number of other senior game in the All-County League as well," he said. "So it wouldn't be anything new to her."
Brewster Park is a recurring theme with Farrelly's refereeing landmarks. In 2012, she was a sideline official for an Ulster senior club championship tie between St Gall's and Tempo Maguires.
Last year she became the first female to take charge of an inter-county game when she was in the middle for the Ulster minor Championship tie there, between Fermanagh and Antrim.
Despite only taking up refereeing in 2008, she joined the Ulster GAA Referee Academy in 2011.
Her first final came the following year, when she refereed the Cavan All-County League decider.
In 2014, she refereed the county U-21 final, the All-Ireland Ladies' senior final, and was named Ulster GAA Referee of the Year.
Last year brought a big breakthrough with her handling of the Ulster minor game.
While the convention booklets of practically every county will contain appeals from county secretaries for clubs to source more referees, the progress of Farrelly is immensely encouraging and will inspire others.
Crowe believes that established refereeing career pathways have allowed developments of these kind to flourish.
"The way the Association is running matters, anybody who wants to make it onto the inter-county scene have never been better catered for," he said.
"The structures are in place for referees. Once they do well within their own county, you are put in.
"The Ulster Council have a referees' academy and they are the first to introduce this within the Association. Fair play to them.
"This has brought a lot of referees, including Maggie, along big time. It has helped them through with the seminars, the training available to them in that area."