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Helen O'Reilly becomes Ireland's first top-level female referee - and could eventually be in charge of Guinness Pro12 and European games

Helen O'Reilly has become Ireland's first top-level female referee.

The 39-year-old has been refereeing rugby for less than four years and has quickly moved up the ranks.

The move could eventually see her officiating in the Guinness Pro12 and the European Champions Cup action.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has made Helen O'Reilly the first female appointment to its National Referee Panel.

The Women's Rugby World Cup official has been hailed as one of the "top female referees in the world" and will now step up to take charge at Ulster Bank League matches.

The 39-year-old Dubliner officiated at this year's women's World Cup in France.

IRFU referee development direction Owen Doyle said: "Helen's appointment is based solely on merit but as the first female referee to make the panel she must be congratulated.

"Her hard work, dedication and strong refereeing performances have propelled her into the top handful of female referees in the world and into the national panel here in Ireland."

The former Ashbourne RFC and St Mary's RFC player has been refereeing for less than four years.

After completing women's Six Nation duties O'Reilly was one of just two female northern hemisphere referees chosen for the summer's Women's Rugby World Cup held in France.

Earlier this year Nottingham solicitor Claire Hodnett became England's first female referee to join the Rugby Football Union national panel.

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