GAA National Panel referee, Maggie Farrelly, pictured at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign in Croke Park today.
GAA National Panel referee, Maggie Farrelly, pictured at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign in Croke Park today. 

Maggie Farrelly enjoying every refereeing milestone along the way


By John Harrington

It’s been a history-making few months for inter-county referee, Maggie Farrelly.

Last November she became the first female to take charge of a senior men’s club final when she refereed the Cavan SFC Final replay, and then in February she became the first female to referee an Allianz Football League match, Leitrim v London.

She’s worked hard to make those breakthroughs, and rightly takes a lot of satisfaction from them.

"Yeah, extremely satisfying,” said Farrelly at the launch of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign in Croke Park today.

“There's been a number of firsts but they are opportunities I have been preparing for and wanting to get, like any other referee at this level. Refereeing the county final was a huge honour for me, and then being invited onto the national referee's panel was another great milestone in my own refereeing pathway.

"It's been a busy league campaign, whether it was refereeing or out doing the line or being on standby and so on. It's given me a great taste and a great flavour of what's expected of an inter-county referee."

Farrelly was an obvious choice to be an ambassador for SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign which encourages GAA communities across the country to do what they can to make their community more diverse and inclusive.

She’s a powerful role-model for women in sport, even if she doesn’t feel like one herself.

"The word role model has been mentioned a lot of times today, and probably even prior to this,” she says.

“For me personally, I probably don't see myself as a role model. I see myself as someone who wants to do something that somebody else is doing in terms of refereeing. But I do understand that a wee bit of responsibility comes with being the first.

“You're setting the scene for others to follow, and as we can recall, the 2020 campaign was built on being visual. If my story creates an opportunity for somebody else to follow, sure why not?

"It's a great opportunity. The GAA and Supervalu have been very supportive of that idea in terms of inclusivity and having a diverse range of people playing our games and being part of the community at home and ambassador level."

Referee Maggie Farrelly during the 2022 Allianz Football League Division 4 match between Leitrim and London at Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Bekan, Mayo. 
Referee Maggie Farrelly during the 2022 Allianz Football League Division 4 match between Leitrim and London at Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Bekan, Mayo. 

Farrelly fell into refereeing by accident – her first passion was coaching and she only decided to undertake a refereeing course when asked to do so by her Laragh United club chairperson as part of a refereeing recruitment drive.

She quickly found she loved it, especially the opportunity it gave to meet new people and travel to different venues and counties, and is a passionate advocate for encouraging more people to take up the whistle.

"You're going to be involved in games that you have a passion for in terms of Gaelic Games, whether that's men's football, Ladies football, hurling or camogie,” she said.

“It's a sport that you want to be involved in in some capacity. With that comes the experience of being part of the big day, and it's the people that you meet.

"It's also for your own personal fitness as well, and keeping yourself up to speed with the rules. There are a lot of benefits to it. Some days can be frustrating but that's across the board. You're never going to get the All-Stars for being a referee and you're going to have good days and bad days, but it's about being able to outweigh the bad days and to learn from those negative experiences.

"You have to be able to learn from what you're doing really well too and to reflect on some areas that need to be improved on. But there are a lot of opportunities for new referees to come in and to develop. It's about having that support mechanism that will add to that and getting a good team of umpires around you.

“If you're representing your club as an official, the club should be able to give you that wee bit of support in terms of getting you at least two umpires to enable you to go out and referee, get a bit of feedback at half-time and at full-time, and be able to reflect on your performance.

"That will give you a bit of confidence in your own ability, particularly when you're starting out because you do have a certain amount of doubts about yourself. It's just ensuring that you've got good people around you to help you develop and build confidence."