Welcome to another edition of Referees Corner and a warm welcome to Frank Murphy, today’s match referee and his team. Frank is a former rugby player. Originally from Cork, Murphy played for his native province of Munster before moving to the English side Leicester Tigers, with whom he won a Premiership title, and then finished his career with Connacht, another Irish province, making over 100 appearances for the side.
He began refereeing in the All-Ireland League in 2015, progressing to referee in the British and Irish Cup later that year. He began refereeing at international level in 2016, and has taken charge of games in the European Nations Cup. In November 2016, Murphy took charge of his first Pro12 game, and has since gone on to referee in the Challenge Cup at European level.
Last week I had a chance to catch up with Katie Byrne. Katie is a Leinster Rugby Referee, currently progressing speedily through the ranks in Leinster with aspirations for All Ireland league.
- What made you decide to take up the whistle? I was playing rugby in Tullamore and had undertaken an affiliate referee course. I didn’t have any aspirations to become a referee at the time, but Declan O’Reilly who was a referee in the club asked me to do an u16 girls game one weekend and that’s where I started out. I always had a decent understanding of the law while playing but I quickly realised there were a lot more variations to it. After 7 years the challenge of refereeing on a more permanent basis appealed to me.
- How long are you refereeing now? It’s 4 years since I became a trial member. I was still playing during my year as a trialist but retired the following year, and subsequently became a full member of the ARLB.
- What is the biggest thing you have learned since you started out? The importance of good communication. You need to be able to explain decisions to players and prevent negative behaviour. Your whistle tone and signals play a big part in this.
- What was the process like to become a referee? I started out as an affiliate, then progressed as a trial member, and after passing my trial game, became elected as a full member.
- What is your training regime like? Steve Griffiths won’t thank me for saying this but I’m not a big fan of running (nor are my achilles)- I find it tedious when you’re not on the pitch, so the bulk of my training is done between the gym and the pool. I normally do 2 days cardio and 2 days of weights per week, along with a game or two.
- What is your favourite thing about refereeing? As cliche as it sounds, the people. You meet such a variety of people in different roles and from different backgrounds. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to work with a number of high profile international referees including Hollie Davidson, Sara Cox and Aimee Barrett-Theron during the Women’s 6 Nations and referees from other provinces.
- What is the most memorable game you have refereed so far? This was probably the most difficult question to answer. I think I’ve done 120+ in the last few years. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Connacht and Munster for my opening IPAS fixtures. I was down in Newcastle West recently for a Munster Junior A fixture, and the standard of rugby was great.
- What is your pre – match routine like? I’m a sucker for being early, I’ve had nightmares about being late for games. I normally have a good carb filled breakfast in the morning of protein pancakes and fruit. I always try to arrive 60-90 minutes before KO. I like to get all the formalities out of the way early, so the team sheets, stud check, front row chat and coin toss are out of the way between 30 – 45 minutes before KO. I tend to wait until 20 minutes before KO to do my warm-up, which is a mixture of static stretching, dynamic stretching and running. I head back into the dressing room about 5 minutes before KO and then give the teams a time check before following them back out.
- What are your refereeing aspirations – you are currently on IPAS, what is IPAS about? My aspirations have changed every season. When I first started out, I never imagined that I would be on IPAS – It wasn’t on my radar. This season, it’s obviously to pass IPAS and make it onto the national panel. IPAS is short for Inter Provincial Assessment System. It’s essentially a set of 6 games, 2 in each province, where you’re assessed by a local assessor. The IRFU then decide at the end of the season, if your performance is good enough to make it onto the national panel of referees. One day, it would also be nice to tick a women’s international off the list, but I’ll cross that bridge if I get to it.
- Who is your idol or favourite referee and why? Luke Pearce is probably my favourite referee at the minute. He’s always, cool, calm and collected in his approach. He has a good understanding of the law and really effective communication with players.
- What will make you improve as a referee? Getting on the pitch. The more games you get under your belt, the better. Even if it’s an under 13 game, it’s still valuable in the grand scheme of things; you can work on the basics which follow through, no matter what level you’re refereeing. Also being receptive to feedback from mentors and other referees will benefit you.
- What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking up refereeing? Just Try It. It’s not as daunting as a lot of people think. We’re lucky in rugby, that referees are well respected and there’s an abundance of support available from mentors, assessors and fellow referees in your local area and beyond.
- Do you do any self-analysis after games? I’m probably my biggest critic. I tend to analyse decisions and any mistakes I make, before I acknowledge the decisions I’ve got right.
Wishing Katie the very best for the season ahead and her IPAS games.
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