DAVID Coldrick's head wasn't where it should have been when he missed the first big black card call of the 2014 championship.
The two-time All-Ireland final referee made the admission in a presentation to an insightful first Referee Conference that brought together officials from a cross-section of sports to listen to presentations from their peers in Abbotstown on Saturday.
Coldrick included his failure to punish Down's Conor Maginn for a challenge on Mark Donnelly in his list of career low points.
Maginn later scored a goal and Down drew to pile early pressure on referees over the introduction of the new rule. But Coldrick, an actuary, revealed that work had been busy in the week leading up to the Omagh game and subsequently questioned his "mental fitness" for the match.
It was an interesting insight from a refereeing perspective into the life/sport balance that has become such a topic in the early stages of the 2015 season.
"It was the first real test of the 2014 championship," Coldrick said. "I knew there was a reason why I had been appointed (for the opener) and I missed it.
"This was to do with my mental fitness. Work had been hectic in the build-up. My head wasn't where it should have been. It wasn't clear."
Coldrick also felt team communication failed, and that again it was down to him.
"There were a lot of decisions in a couple of seconds," he said. "My mind went blank. I got the penalty right, but I never thought what type of foul was it and what type of card should it be."
Coldrick claimed that an Ulster championship was the ultimate test for any ambitious referee. "Ulster makes or breaks you," he told his audience of referees. "It can be a graveyard. The games are different. There is an extra dimension and intensity, and you must be at your best.
"If you aren't prepared physically and mentally, the chances are you will be caught out. But when you are appointed for your first Ulster championship match, that's making progress."
Coldrick also pointed to his failure to give Dublin a penalty in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final, when Cork players had handled the ball on the ground, as another disappointing moment of his career.
And he reflected on the second and tempestuous Test in the 2006 International Rules series and how he was "a little too complacent" to the dangers after a "negative" build-up.
Under a heading "perceived lack of support from higher powers", he also touched on the red card he gave to Mayo's Lee Keegan in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry that was overturned four days later.
"It was a red card under rule," Coldrick said. "It was the correct decision. When it's overturned it's frustrating and you move on."
Coldrick advised referees present to "park" bad decisions they have made during a game or else they will have the capacity to overpower them.
The 2007 Rugby World Cup final referee Alain Rolland, who quit after taking change of the last Heineken European Cup final last May, was also a guest speaker. He gave his firm support to the concept of team challenges being introduced to rugby after the 2015 World Cup.
The concept, whereby a team would have a number of challenges to decisions as per tennis, is already being piloted in South African universities.
Rolland believes empowering teams with such a facility would "put the onus back on teams with shared responsibility". He said rugby had "gone too far with its recourse to the TV match official. The challenge was to try to get the power back to referees," Rolland claimed.
"We're trying to stress where we can to get the guys to make those decisions on the field of play, rather than refer to the TMO," Rolland said. "Nine times out of 10, they might not need to go back to it. It's finding the happy medium between the two."
Rolland also gave an insight into some of the visualisation techniques he has used to prepare for a game.
Rather than "sit on a sofa" and play situations over, he prefers to go out and work his heart-rate up to over 180 and visualise when he could "hardly breathe and you have to force yourself to think about what you have to do".
The former Irish international scrum-half additionally stressed the importance of knowing what you want to say and how to say it, referencing the technique used by former Welsh official Nigel Williams, who practised delivering his instructions in front of a mirror.