Rugby ref George’s first love is hurling

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

HE MAY be at the top of his game when it comes to rugby refereeing but George Clancy’s first love, sports wise, is hurling, he has revealed.

HE MAY be at the top of his game when it comes to rugby refereeing but George Clancy’s first love, sports wise, is hurling, he has revealed.

The Grange native who takes charge of the France versus Wales, Six Nations clash this Saturday, says he “never misses an opportunity” to watch a hurling match on the television or to go to see his local side, Bruff,in action.

“It is obviously a very spectacular sport,” said George this week as he prepared to travel to Stade de France for Saturday’s game.

George began playing GAA at the age of eight and played hurling with Limerick up to minor level.

“Then the rugby got a bit too serious so I had to pack that in and I took up the rugby refereeing full-time,” he explained.

And he swiftly established himself among the game’s elite referees. To date, he has refereed over 40 Heineken Cup games and in the region of 27 internationals.

In preparation for his Six Nations schedule this year – he will also take charge of the England versus Italy game on March 10 – George attended a Six Nations conference in London last week organised for the referees and touch judges. “As a group, we are pretty clear about what we are trying to achieve so it’s just about reinforcing those things so that the teams know exactly what to expect from us on any given day,” he explained.

According to George, the key to a having a good game is preparation. “There is no doubt about it – you have to produce the goods in front of a stadium of 80 thousand people and millions of people watching on the television as well for the Six Nations. I always find that the better prepared I am, the more confidant I am going into the game.”

The mental preparation, he says, is equally as important as the physical work and he spends much of his time working out solutions to various possible scenarios.

“So then when something does happen during the match, you are not trying to think up how you are going to react to it on the spot, instead it almost comes naturally to you at that stage and you have that degree of control at least about your own game.”

While he admits that referees are going to make mistakes in every game – “you just hope that they are not critical mistakes that are going to affect the outcome of the game.”

As a rule, George tends to avoid reading the newspaper coverage and all the analysis after the games “because that doesn’t really affect how I view the game to be honest.”

“I have assessors going to the matches and they will give me very honest feedback on how the game went – good or bad,” he pointed out.

“It is not a case of hiding away from it or anything like that; I just don’t think that there is anything good going to come of it for me. You are not going to pick up the paper looking for compliments for referees - that just doesn’t happen.”

So what did he think of Ireland’s performance against Wales last Saturday?

“I watched the match on Saturday and I was very impressed. I thought they played as good as I have seen them play in a long time so I was absolutely delighted for them.”

And their Grand Slam chances?

“Obviously this Sunday’s match against England will be huge and if they could win that, the tournament will open up for them.”