David Gough wins Shane Hourigan Young Referee of the Year Award
By Cian O'Connell
Suddenly David Gough's attention was captured at Saturday evening's Referees Banquet in Croke Park.
RTE's Joanne Cantwell's was hosting the ceremony with the Shane Hourigan Young Referee of the Year Award being presented. "As Joanne started to list out the achievements of the referee, I started to think, that sounds like a game I refereed," Gough laughs. "It just started to dawn on me the more she spoke, it was a huge surprise.
"It was a massive surprise because it is only the second time it has ever been awarded to a referee. I had forgotten it was even on the list because it was something new two years ago, it is lovely to have the award with Shane's name on it and my name on it. A huge surprise, I wasn't expecting it on the night."
Having only joined the inter-county panel in 2012 Gough is delighted by the progress made. "I came on to the panel very quick and I moved on to the elite panel within one year,' Gough admits. "For a young referee I spent four years on the elite panel so I have a good lot of Championship games under my belt. "After four years I have two All Ireland Quarter-Finals, an All Ireland Semi-Final done and All Ireland minor and under 21 Finals so I'm really happy."
The thought of operating on the significant Championship weekends at Croke Park remains a huge incentive for Gough. "Yeah, it is. Refereeing Dublin and Kerry this year was the first time I refereed in Croke Park in front of a full house. "The atmosphere was absolutely electric. As you progress your refereeing career and get bigger games, the atmosphere within the stadium intensifies.
"It is that buzz you get coming out on to the field is what drives you on to make you want to referee games and to be involved in those stages throughout the rest of your career.
"It is incredible because the 70 minutes passes you by. People want to speak to you about the game afterwards, they talk about different players and different scores, and who played well and who didn't play well. I, as a referee, wouldn't have a clue. Who played well? How many points they scored?
"I think Dean Rock scored an incredible amount of points that day in the All Ireland Semi-Final, I didn't know that, I didn't realise that coming off the field because your mind is in a completely different place.
"You don't recognise faces, players or anything. You see a jersey colour and your head is just full of rules and infractions and trying to get decisions right. It is a great atmosphere, but you certainly don't get to sit back and relax to enjoy the game."
Remaining focused in the lead up to games is what Gough always tries to do. "I wouldn't pick up a newspaper, I wouldn't be the type to go online sites," Gough says.
"Certainly in the preparation in the week before a match you are visualising situations that could occur and wondering how you are going to deal with them. You are revisiting them in your mind and saying 'no that is not how, I need to do something different'. I need to approach that better, you are trying to get to the most optimum decision.
"You need to be prepared on the day for all eventualities so that when something happens you have visualised it already and you know you can act in a calm manner to rely on something that you have gone over before. When the player sees that you are calm, you can continue to gain respect throughout the game."
David Gough pictured with Killian Young and Stephen Cluxton before the 2016 All Ireland SFC Semi-Final at Croke Park.
Gough is adamant that Gaelic Football has evolved during the past half decade. "Certainly the pace of the games I find are an awful lot quicker. There is an awful lot of hand passing. Cynical play for the most part has gone out of the game which allows for a much more open game of football. That involves an awful lot more running.
"We saw recently at our seminar last week we were looking at referee's running in the high nines and low 10s kilometre range throughout the 70 minutes. That is the level you have to get to if you want to stay up with the play to perform at the highest level because the play is going so fast now.
"The players are so fit, they don't fatigue, they move at an incredible pace, we have to stay up with the play. That is the biggest change I see, that the pace of the game has increased so much due to a running game, more so than just a foot passing game."
Regular interaction with other officials assists referees according to Gough. "It is hugely important that we do meet," the Meath native remarks.
"We might only referee nine or 10 inter-county games a year. When you turn up to a venue you'll have three other officials there and it is expected that there is a good level of camaraderie between us. It isn't like an inter-county set-up where we are training two or three nights and a match together at the weekend. You have different officials every weekend. You mightn't have seen one for two, three or four months so it is vitally important to meet up as often as we can to build up a relationship with the other officials.
"I have particular friends in Conor Lane and Ciaran Branagan, I know them and their partners quite well. We would stay in constant contact.
Cormac Reilly and David Coldrick have been influential figures assisting Gough in his refereeing career. "The other two are the two Meath guys, David Coldrick and Cormac Reilly, who have been a huge source of advice and support for me throughout my whole refereeing career."
"Yeah, I would often meet Cormac for a cup of coffee or ring David to say this happened at the weekend, I'm not sure if I dealt with it right, what are your thoughts about it. He might have a different interpretation regarding the wording in a rule so it is great to thrash it out with a referee on the elite panel, who has gone through all of this.
"Cormac and David have huge experience when it gets to the latter stages of the All Ireland Championships. David, having done three All Ireland Finals, is a great friend to have to be able to pick up the phone. He will be thoroughly honest and constructive in anything he has to say to you."