Belfast Telegraph

Aged just 15, teenage whistleblower Ronan is our youngest ref

By CLAIRE MCNEILLY

As whistleblowers go, they don't get much younger than Ronan Begley.

The Fermanagh lad joined the ranks of the refereeing fraternity when he was only 14, after obtaining 91% in the exam.

It now means the 15-year-old can earn £30 each time he officiates at a football game.

Ronan took the referee-run course over six weeks and said he didn't find it too demanding.

"It didn't really feel like work because all you had to do was watch Match Of The Day and talk about big decisions that the referee had made," he said.

His first game was at an under 12s match, where "there was nothing major to do in it", according to the teenager.

He now has four onfield appearances under his belt and will be polishing his boots ahead of this weekend's showdown between Lisbellaw United and Enniskillen Town Under 12s.

"I can't referee under 16 and over matches until I turn 16 next year and then I'll be hoping to move into the Irish League," he said.

His father David (50), a director at Cliftonville Football Club, said Ronan's mother Lorna, brother Conor (18) and sister Maeve (11) were proud of his achievements.

"Ronan goes to all the Irish League games with me and I think that's what sparked his interest in being a referee," said Mr Begley.

Northern Ireland's best known referee Alan Snoddy, who recently retired as head of refereeing at the Irish Football Association (IFA), said the Enniskillen teen was one of the youngest to follow in his footsteps.

FACTFILE

Our young prodigies:

1 Rory McIlroy – topped the World Amateur Golf Ranking for one week as a 17-year-old.

2 Norman Whiteside – the youngest player to take part in a World Cup when he was 17.

3 George Best – talent-spotted by Manchester United at 15.

4 Pat Jennings – played for Shamrock Rovers' under 18 side at the age of 11.

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