The newly appointed chairman of the Donegal branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society has spoken of his concern at the lack of new members willing to take up the whistle here.
Mick Lagan said the age-profile within the branch is also a cause for worry while the lack of a single female referee in Donegal is also a major issue.
Mr. Lagan has taken over from Tommy McAree as chairman of the local referees’ branch. He leads an organisation which has 56 registered referees in Donegal. However, the new chairman has warned that the need for new members remains one of the society’s immediate concerns.
“It’s an ongoing issue in this county and unfortunately when you consider that the average age of our members is 47, you can understand why we would like to see younger people coming on board and giving refereeing a go,” Mr. Lagan said.
Mick Lagan (right) with Ed Moore who has retired from refereeing, and Donegal League official Terry Leyden (centre).
The Donegal branch provides referees for all levels of soccer in the county including the Donegal League, Ulster Senior League, Inishowen League as well as the Donegal Schoolboys and Donegal Women’s Leagues.
With schoolboys fixtures now moved from winter to summer, the pressure on referees has eased somewhat, but Mick Lagan said there is still an immediate need for more match officials.
He said when the hope is that when players stop playing the game, they might decide to take up the whistle.
“So many people want to stay involved in the game after they finish up playing. Some people make the step up to managing or coaching. We’ve got kids who start playing and we might start looking after those teams.
“But we’d encourage people to give some consideration to becoming a referee as well. There are some fantastic opportunities to progress as a referee and all the support is there for anyone thinking about taking it up.”
This year, Donegal referee Marty McGarrigle was a match official at the Aviva Stadium for the FAI Junior Cup final. The local society also provided the match officials for this year’s Oscar Traynor Cup final. Donegal currently has only one member on the League of Ireland panel in Michael Connolly, but a number of local referees have been part of that panel in recent season.
“We hold introductory courses for new referees a couple of times every year and the numbers attending are always pretty good,” Mr. Lagan said.
“The problem is we find that up to 60 per cent of those who complete the course chose not to stay on as a referee. They might stick at it for a season or two and decide that it’s not for them. Others might just referee at schoolboys level and are happy enough to stay at that.
“But for those who want to make a go of it, there are great opportunities to referee at a good level.”
The Donegal branch lost three experienced members at the end of last season when Ed Moore, Kevin Logue and Paul Duddy stepped down. It makes the need for new members all the more important.
Mr. Lagan also pointed to the success and growth of women’s football in the county and said the local branch would be delighted to hear from any women who might be interested in becoming a referee.
“We don’t have a single female referee in Donegal and it would be nice for that to change,” he said.
Mr. Lagan said an introductory course for referees will be held in the county in September. In the meantime, anyone looking for more information on becoming a referee can contact any member of the Donegal branch.