While it is now something he is passionate about, the irony is that he only became involved because his wife, Geraldine, saw an advert in the Herald looking for would-be referees and enrolled him in an FAI-sponsored referee training course in DIT. But more of that later.
Having played football at every level, from underage right up to the Over 35s, he eventually retired at the age of 36 having suffered a serious groin strain. Before he knew it, he was involved in team management. Eric Barber, the former Irish international with whom he had played, convinced him to take on the management of the Saturday team at the recently-amalgamated Aylesbury and Tymon Bawn clubs and it spiralled from there. Soon he was in charge of Intermediate League club Newtown Rangers and on it went.
After some years he stepped back from team management and was running at least four days a week in Marlay Park before a chance encounter with George Victory, then an engineer with the Department of Justice, got him thinking about refereeing. George was already an established referee and felt that it would suit Brendan.
He no sooner mentioned the idea at home than Geraldine had him enrolled on that course and, before he knew it – at the tender age of 46 – he was an FAI-registered LSL referee. He opted to officiate at LSL games because, having played so much in that league, he knew exactly where all the grounds were.
Over the years he progressed up through the various grades and is now a senior referee qualified to officiate at the top level. This process involved participation in all the regular (and mandatory) FAI-run courses and training modules, something which still applies today. He even has to attend fitness training once a week, in addition to undertaking a number of written exams each year. A panel of Referee Assessors also do unannounced spot checks during games.
”The football referee regime is now very well managed in Ireland”, says Brendan, ”having changed a great deal since I started. We even have referee Schools of Excellence and it is not uncommon for referees from Ireland to officiate at EUFA games.
”That said, I think it does help enormously if a referee has actually played the game, especially at junior and intermediate level. You have to get the balance right between officialdom and common sense. You hear a lot about referees getting abuse from players and spectators but, thankfully, I have experienced very little of that.
”Indeed, for the most part I enjoy the banter with players and managers. Generally it is all very good natured and, while some harsh words might be spoken in the heat of the moment, all is forgiven once the final whistle blows. ”I also thoroughly enjoy the interaction with other referees. As a group we come from very different backgrounds, with a mix of everything from bankers and barristers through to engineering, plumbing, teaching, etc. The camaraderie is infectious and that makes it all the more enjoyable”.