GAA rules out increase of age limit for inter-county referees

GAA official match administrators have ruled out the possibility of increasing the age limit of inter-county referees from 50.

The idea of ​​raising the age restriction had been discussed earlier this year as it was felt in some quarters that it was arbitrary and was depriving fit and able match officials from continuing their careers and as a result negatively affecting the inter-county game.

However, as part of the referee recruitment drive across all levels and encouraging a lower age profile at inter-county level in particular it was decided to retain the age limit, which was introduced in 2010 and initially suggested by former leading referee and national match officials committee chairman Pat McEnaney.

Opinion on the matter is mixed. Four-time All-Ireland senior hurling final referee Barry Kelly retired from inter-county refereeing in 2017 at the age of 48 but continued to act as linesman for a period. He supported the age limit then and continues to do so now as an inter-county match official tutor.

“It would be a retrograde step to lift it,” he said. “At 50 plus, it’s not easy to keep pace with the modern game and at that stage most guys have 15 to 20 years done.

“Obviously, some guys could cope with it, but it would be strange considering other organizations have an even younger age limit. It could be another stick to beat referees with. I presume the idea would be linked to recruitment difficulties.”

However, getting rid of the age restriction is backed by one current inter-county referee.

“If a referee wants to continue and is passing the annual fitness test and is performing on the field then they should be allowed to carry on. If there is a decline in fitness then that is that and they finish up.

“There is a serious lack of quality referees at the elite level. A couple of referees are finishing up in 2023 not because they are unfit – they are in the top 10 easily – but they are reaching the age and yet they want to keep going. Doing away with that experience and interest is a mistake. They are two men who genuinely help younger guys who officiate with them.”

Stepping away from the inter-county scene in 2017 having turned 50, Laois man Eddie Kinsella hit out at the age restriction.

Kinsella, who took charge of the 2014 All-Ireland final between Kerry and Donegal, only began officiating in his mid-30s.

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