Cup finals are massive days for refs as well as players
The latest news in refereeing circles has centred around who has been appointed to the different European Cup semi-finals and the upcoming World Cup.
From an Irish perspective, it is with immense pride to see that both John Lacey and George Clancy are to fore front in both competitions. Being selected to referee in the final of any competition is the pinnacle of achievement for any referee.
While it may not be the dizzy heights of the aforementioned marquee matches, to be appointed to one of the finals in the Connacht domestic and school calendar is a proud moment for any ARCB member.
These matches are not for the faint-hearted (with so much dependent on the outcome). The selection process is based on merit and the recent track record of referees.
No wonder, as they will have to meet the demands of these emotionally charged contests.
In the last few weeks two of our members were in charge of two blue riband competitions.
Jason Cairns refereed the nail-biting Senior Schools contest between Garbally College and Summerhill College from Sligo.
On the domestic front, Shane McElwee was the primary official for the Connacht Junior Cup Plate final.
Regardless of the type of final, there are pre-match preparations that have to be completed and taking stock of how the game is to be managed successfully.
Shane describes it thus: "Firstly it is a privilege to be selected as the referee for a cup final. I suppose it is seen by any referee as a reward for all the hard work put in during the season.
"I would revise my law book during the week and pay particular attention to some of the more obscure laws, as more often than not something unusual will happen in a final (as it did in this game!)."
Taking charge of the Senior Schools final was a similar experience for Jason Cairns.
"When I received the call that I was appointed to the Connacht Junior final and School senior finals, I was floating," he says. "It's a huge honour to be appointed to a final in your province by your peers."
As finals are once-off contests, referees fully appreciate that they too do not get a second chance to get it right as possible on the day.
Jason captures this awareness succinctly.
"I would always arrive at the ground 90 minutes before kick-off, lay out my gear and get my head in check," he explains.
"Then I would warm up, discuss the game with my team of four officials and hopefully we ensure the game isn't remembered for a refereeing mistake."
Shane McElwee also shares this attention to detail for his final.
"Once I arrive at the ground, I will inspect the pitch and then greet both teams' management and discuss any issues they may have," he says.
"Then I will meet both teams and tell them what I expect from them during the game. I will chat with my fellow officials to ensure we are all working together throughout the match."
Jason also explained that being appointed to a final brings its own pressure.
"The week before my final is no different to any other game, with regards my preparation. I still do my speed work and a lot of visitation work," he says.
"However calls from fellow referees and family members wishing you well does give you some butterflies."
Referees can't help be aware of how a game unfolds. They take immense satisfaction when it is an absorbing contest. They also recognise all the elements that contribute to them being the best official they can be on the day.
"This was one of those games where it was nip and tuck from start to finish with eight tries in total with Galwegians scoring the winning try in the 79th minute. It was a credit to both teams on the day that we had a really exciting game, played in a wonderful spirit from start to finish," says Shane McElwee.
For more information about rugby refereeing in Connacht, please visit www.arcb.ie