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Local referee Thomas Walsh outlines All-Ireland ambitions

Local referee Thomas Walsh has outlined his ambitions to referee the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final in the next five years.

The Modeligo man, known as 'Tyler', has refereed four senior county finals in Waterford, as well as officiating in the National Hurling League and at inter-county level too.

The 31-year-old recently returned from a trip to Dubai where he refereed at an overseas GAA tournament.

'Tyler' says refereeing in 42-degree heat in the Middle East was a far-cry from the bread and butter of a wet and windy Fraher Field.

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"We had about ten games each which were seven minutes a side, and I think at one stage in the middle of the day it got to about 42 degrees. The heat was awful, we were constantly getting water on board. We wouldn't be used to heat like that, us Irish boys. It was the first tournament that they held in 18 months, and they're holding another one in January - so please God, we'll get to go over again."

In terms of goals for the year coming, 'Tyler' is hoping to add to his growing inter-county stock. He told WLR of his delight to officiate a fourth county final between Ballygunner and Roanmore a number of weeks ago. The young referee is hoping to officiate in a provincial inter-county decider this year, all going to plan.

"At the moment, it's going well. I've four senior hurling county finals done now. It's great and I just want more and more. We have football here in Waterford now, college games are back and then in January we're heading into the league. I'm hoping to get a few of the bigger games in the league, and fingers crossed for next year - it'd be a Leinster semi-final or final that would be the aim."

At present, there is a shortage of young referees nationwide. Abuse is part and parcel of the role, but Thomas says perks like the recent trip to Dubai show there more pros than cons to the role of the referee.

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"Refereeing brings it's own rewards. Of course, there is abuse on the field, but when you get opportunities like this one, you have to grab them. Any referee who wants to start in Waterford are welcome in the next five to six years. There's very little of us, and if anyone does want to get involved, simply just come and talk to us. We had Eoin Morrissey recently going into schools, and it'd be great to get young lads involved. In a group of sixty or seventy lads, if we could get one or two - we'd be delighted."

There are times for all referees when they question whether the job is worth doing. Walsh says his wife is a huge source of encouragement, and the best way to get over a bad game is to go out and referee again.

"Referees have bad games. There's good games and bad games. Some days I have a bad game and I'd tell her, I don't want to do this anymore, you know. 'I have enough'. She does turns around and says 'listen, look you have a game tomorrow, see how it goes', and that game will be better than the one before it. You just get on with it. If the game goes bad and a team is abusing you, the best thing you can do is go out and referee their game the following week."

'Tyler' welcomes the fact that he is sharing the field at present with some of the most talented hurlers in the country, but his dreams of refereeing the showpiece game in the hurling calendar could likely be scuppered by Waterford's involvement in the All Ireland Final itself.

He says if Waterford aren't in the final, he hopes he will be representing the county in some form.

"Some days you don't want to be refereeing - but when rewards like this come around, it's great encouragement. It keeps you going. In the next four or five years, I'm hoping to referee the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final - so fingers crossed that it'll come."

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