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Power switches off following 28 years of service

PADDY POWER admits it -- he had a soft spot for the Barrs -- Eddie, Keith and Johnny.

"We'd have fabulous slagging on the pitch. All good humoured stuff. But there was the odd curse as well, and it went both ways!

"You'd meet those guys after, and we'd be the best of friends. Great characters. There's not as many characters around these days," laments Paddy.

He was 28 years refereeing. Back problems eventually led to Paddy handing in the whistle this season.

He blew it for the last time in the AFL Division 3 tie between St Margaret's and Clontarf. "I began in Fingal and I ended in Fingal.

"The old Fingal League was where I learned my trade. I served my apprenticeship out there. They were marvellous people. They reminded me so much of the people of West Clare. People like Mick Kennedy at St Margaret's. You wouldn't find better."

Paddy came to Dublin when he was just 18. In those days he played for anybody that gave him a jersey. "I became legitimate when I signed for Kilmore!" Kilmore won the Dublin Intermediate Football Championship title in 1989, beating St Monica's in a replay. "All of that team went to school at St David's, Artane. I was the only outsider."

He combined playing and refereeing for 20 years, playing in the morning and refereeing in the afternoon.

He was a skilful footballer who could turn on a bottle top. He took a few knocks for his trouble. As defenders were dishing it out, Paddy often thought to himself that he could do a better job that some of the refs that were meant to be protecting him.

He settled well into the role. He was promoted to the inter-county ranks. Fitness was at the core of his progress. He'd be out running at 7am four days a week before work. "I always believed you had to be up with the play. "If you are up with the play and you have to make a critical decision, the neutral will always give you the benefit of the doubt."

In the early years he learned all he could from watching the likes of Denis Guerin, Tony Jordan, Aidan Shiells, Joe Martin, Clem Foley, Noel O'Donoghue and John Bailey.

"You couldn't help but learn from people like that. The control you have over a game is decided by your performance in the first two to three minutes. I always tried to put myself in the minds of the players. It's all about the players. People don't go to Parnell Park to see the referee.

"If at all possible, I liked having a smile and joke with the players. You can't beat the bit of banter.

"I had certain principles. I never hung around on the pitch after I blew for full-time. I was gone off it as quickly as possible. And I never went into a clubhouse after a game.

"As they say, you are only six inches away from a pat on the back as a kick in the backside."

Paddy refereed two senior county finals. The first was the football in 1992. "I was five years as an inter-county ref before that, so that shows the standard of refereeing there was in Dublin. Kilmacud Crokes beat Civil Service in that final. Mick Dillon captained Crokes. Dermot Flanagan captained Service."

Pat Burke senior played with Crokes and Sean O'Connor was with Service. Pat, Sean and myself were from the one club, Kilmurry-Ibrickane.

"I then did the 2008 hurling final when Ballyboden beat Crokes. I love hurling. I'm really passionate about it even though it was all football from where I came from in West Clare."

Paddy says Dublin have an excellent crop of first-class referees that continue to raise the standard. He'd love to see more of them.

"I remember once I had to send Mick Bissett off. I met him sometime after. He said he was thinking of retiring. I said to him why don't you come down and do the Referees' course.

"He did. Dave Feeney the same. I always felt more ex-players should become referees. Ex-players could be the answer to it."

Paddy knows the pressure of the job. He's a Referees' Tutor with Gay McCabe. The next course for new referees will be held in the autumn. Paddy and his peers would love to see a full house.

Anybody interested in becoming a referee is welcome to ring Paddy Power (087-2175293), Aidan Shiells (087-2442764), Frank Brady (086-8295068).