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Trailblazer Maggie now aiming even higher

By Declan Bogue

As a soaked-through Maggie Farrelly left the pitch at Garvaghey, a number of players tracked back from their troop to the dressing rooms to make sure they shook hands with the first female to referee an inter-county game.

With a shocking wind blowing right across the field and a band of rain getting heavier as the game progressed, you can scarcely imagine more difficult conditions to make decisions as the main official.

Despite that, victorious Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath was fulsome in his praise of the Cavan whistler.

"Conditions were difficult for players and conditions were difficult for her because there were collisions and there were people mistiming things," he said afterwards.

"I think Maggie handled the game very well. The players, I think, handled the situation of a female referee very well. They didn't show her any respect that she wasn't due, they showed her the respect that any referee is due.

"I think she has certainly made a very good start to her inter-county career."

Farrelly, who dismissed St Mary's full-forward Matthew Fitzpatrick after two yellow cards, said as she made for the sanctuary of a warm dressing room: "I don't think I have refereed in conditions quite as bad as that. Perhaps I have in that kind of rain or that wind, but never the two together like that."

One thing she was keen to point out was the difference between club and county football.

"There's quite a difference in the pace of the game at county level and they also have skills acquisition then as well," she pointed out.

For now, she will target further progress - onto the panel of elite referees.

"At the moment, since joining the Ulster GAA Academy in 2011, through to 2013, I came out of that and joined the National Support Panel and I am presently on that. That's a massive learning curve and it's a massive experience to be out with the inter-county referees at senior Championship games," she explained.

"You are learning all the time from that. Again, this is just a McKenna Cup game. It's just the next step up the ladder. You just have to take every day as it comes."

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