Belfast Telegraph

A new era for the GAA as woman ref Maggie writes her name in the history books

By Amanda Ferguson

When Maggie Farrelly steps on to the turf at Brewster Park in Enniskillen this Sunday she will be blazing a trail for women in GAA.

That's because Maggie will be the first woman in the sport's history to referee a men's inter-county championship game.

The Co Cavan ref will take to the pitch for the Ulster minor clash between Fermanagh and Antrim.

However, it won't be the first time Ms Farrelly has broken down barriers.

Last season she became the first woman to officiate a men's senior inter-county match in Croke Park, when she was a lineswoman for the Allianz League clash between Kerry and Dublin.

"It's a great honour and something that you can only dream about," she said at the time.

The Laragh woman, who graduated from Letterkenny Institute of Technology with a degree in Business in Sports Development and Coaching in 2011, started out officiating for ladies football. Then, in 2006, she was asked to help out in the men's game in Cavan as there was a shortage of referees in the Breffni county.

Social media users were thrilled to learn that Farrelly would be taking charge of a man's game.

"Delighted to hear reports that Maggie Farrelly will ref Ulster MFC this weekend #GAA," Tracey Kennedy from Cork wrote on Twitter.

Last night Alan Milton from the GAA told the Belfast Telegraph that Sunday marks another special day in the organisation's long history.

"We welcome the Ulster appointment of Maggie Farrelly," he said. "It is one that is made entirely on merit.

"It is a very positive development for the GAA.

"We have thousands of ladies who are prominent at all levels of the GAA.

"We are delighted the contribution of females will be so evident this weekend."

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin described Ms Farrelly as an inspiration.

"Maggie Farrelly is blazing a trail for women in sport across Ireland and Sunday's match will be the culmination of her years of dedication to Gaelic games," she said.

"Maggie is an inspiration to girls and young women, particularly those who are working hard to progress in traditionally male-dominated sports like football.

"I want to see a time in sport when it is no big deal for a woman to referee a men's match and I believe we will get there as more young women get involved.

"Maggie can be very proud of her achievements to date.

"I am sure she will continue her upward trajectory in officiating and I wish her all the very best for this crunch Ulster Championship tie this weekend."

Last year Roisin Jordan made history by becoming the first female to hold the position of a county board chairperson, after being elected for the top job in Tyrone.

Females who broke down sporting barriers

Helen O'Reilly is the first woman the IRFU appointed to its national referee panel and she also officiated at the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup.

Janie Frampton is a former football referee and became one of the FA's national referee managers. She now runs a sports officials consultancy.

Michaela Tabb is a former pool player and referee who has officiated at two World Snooker Championship finals, the first woman to do so.

Violet Renice Palmer is an American basketball referee in the NBA and WNBA and the first female official to reach the highest competitive tier in a major US professional sport.

Sarah Thomas was made the National Football League's first full-time female official last month.

Belfast Telegraph


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