Wednesday 18 October 2017

Irish whistlers cream of the crop

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

In so many ways they are the unsung heroes of the global game, yet all they ever seem to ship is grief.

The 'they' I refer to are the humble referees.

And if ever there was a good news story in Irish rugby, this is it. The IRFU refereeing department under director Owen Doyle can take a bow.

No fewer than seven Irish referees will take charge of games in the opening two rounds of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup.

George Clancy, Leo Colgan, Peter Fitzgibbon, John Lacey, Dudley Phillips, David Wilkinson and Alain Rolland (not by chance the official of choice for the game between South Africa and New Zealand in front of a huge crowd at Soccer City in Soweto last Saturday) will be the Irish whistlers calling the shots.

And that list does not include Simon McDowell or the much too prematurely retired Alan Lewis.

The standard of refereeing in this country speaks volumes for the work of referee coaching and development manager David McHugh alongside refereeing development officers David O'Brien, David Wilkinson and David Keane.

Keane is now the most capped IRB referee on the full-time Sevens circuit.

The former Clongowes schoolboy has been instrumental in identifying promising young schoolboy referees from transition year up.

What a pity some other offices in the building haven't yet heard of this abridged version of the game.

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