OMAGH’S Keane Davison is a man on a mission to achieve his career goals on and off the pitch.
The 22-year-old former Omagh Academy pupil will become a barrister in Belfast in the coming weeks, but before that long-held ambition is realised, he has ticked another item off his bucket list by being named on the Irish Rugby Football Union’s national panel of referees.
What that means is that Keane will now officiate all over the country in the All-Ireland Leagues and he is one step closer to achieving his ultimate ambition of officiating at the top level of the sport.
“I’m looking forward to the travel element of it and I’ve been helping doing fourth and fifth official in the pro game over the last year or two, so hopefully I’ll get a wee bit more involvement in that,” he said.
“A couple of years down the line, I’d hope to maybe make it up to assistant referee and running the line in the pro game and obviously I’m quite an ambitious person, so the sky would be the limit in terms of where I’d like to go with refereeing.”
Keane puts his rapid rise in the refereeing ranks down to the enjoyment he gets out of it and although somewhat surprised by the speed of his ascent, he believes it’s been well managed by the powers that be.
“I’m happy to be pushed on as much as possible,” he added. “I was always told when I started ‘you’re a young fellow and you’ll be pushed on’. I didn’t want my successes in refereeing to be purely based on the fact that I’m young.
“I wanted it to be off my own merit and that I was refereeing well.
“Looking back now, I probably was pushed on quite quickly, quicker than a lot of referees.
“The risk is you get pushed on too quickly and you get out of your depth and you end up mucking up a couple of important games.
“That hasn’t happened up until now, so in a sense it has come at the right pace.”
Having played rugby at school before moving on to university, Keane’s sporting plans didn’t initially involve the whistle.
He had intended to join Omagh Accies as a player, but having spotted an advertisement for the new referees course he decided to dip his toes in the water.
“I really enjoyed it. I suppose the argumentative person in me, wanting to be a barrister, I thought I could do a better job than a lot of the referees I had!,” he joked.
“There was a lot to learn at the start. It was a steep learning curve in terms of the actual refereeing and rugby element of it, but I really enjoyed it.
“It was a steep learning curve because going from playing where you’re in your position and you know where you have to be on the pitch at any give time, to refereeing where your position is completely different to where you’d be when you’re playing because the key thing is you don’t want to be in the way.
“But I really enjoyed it, it was something different and I knew in the back of my head that I could always get further refereeing that I ever could have got when playing.”
While he admits he ‘completely lost grip’ of his first ever game as a referee – an under-18s clash in Enniskillen – he remained resolute and continued to learn, attending workshops and meetings, being assessed and after being involved in the Ulster Development Group for two years he was nominated for the Inter Provincial Assessment System (IPAS).
That involves refereeing two games in each of the other provinces in Ireland – in Keane’s case Munster, Connacht and Leinster – during which he would be assessed.
Having impressed in those six games last year, Keane earned his place on the national panel for 2019/20, which he will start on August 25 in Galway when Connacht Women play their Munster counterparts.
• If you are interested in becoming a referee, a new referees course will take place on Saturday, August 17 at Kingspan Stadium To book or enquire, contact Richard Kerr, referee development manager via firstname.lastname@example.org or
07493 868 388.