Rob Hennessy joins Irish officials on FIFA Referees Panel
The 26-year-old has had a meteoric rise through the ranks of refereeing with his progress to the international stage coming after just three seasons on the SSE Airtricity League panel.
Hennessy has been invited to a FIFA Referees seminar in Malaga this weekend to prepare for his elevation to the top tier of the refereeing ladder.
“This year I’ve been selected for the FIFA Panel of Referees from Ireland. Each country is given a specific number of referees on the panel and I’ve been chosen to be one of those representatives this year," said Hennessy, who has been on the SSE Airtricity League panel since 2013.
“The first step is that you have to go to an introductory course run by UEFA and I’ll be heading to Malaga this weekend for my introductory course. We’ll go through fitness tests, Laws of the Game, different modules from UEFA and FIFA instructors so I’m really looking forward to that."
Hennessy was an official on UEFA WU17 and UEFA U19 tournament games in the past two years and will look to use that experience to his advantage in the year ahead.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be on two UEFA mini-tournaments already, one was the Women’s U17 tournament in Cork and the other was the U19 men’s tournament in Galway last year. They were really good experiences. I got to work with referees and observers from other countries and got to see how they work so it was a really good introduction to what’s required at that level," said Hennessy.
“In your first year as an international referee you generally get an underage tournament, whether that’s U17s or U19s, and then after that it’s how your progress goes. I’m lucky to have been given an opportunity to go to Malaga for a week with the Ireland U19s next month for a tournament which will be another good introduction to what life is like in those tournaments.
“We’ve had referees in the past who’ve done really well at UEFA level such as Damien MacGraith and Alan Kelly and our current crop of international referees are doing quite well in Europe at the moment and I would have been in touch with them prior to getting the badge and prior to attending this course."
The Limerick-based school teacher has refereed in the Clare Schoolboy League and Clare District League. He progressed to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division panel in 2015 and officiated at the U19 League Final between Cork City and Limerick the same year.
“I started refereeing in small sided games when I was 14, I sat the beginners test when I was 15 and then when I was 16 I registered with the FAI. We have local observers who give you advice and instructions to try and improve," he added.
"After that I was invited onto the School of Excellence which operates under the guidance of Ian Stokes and he does a really good job of helping referees to develop and fulfil their potential. From there you get put on the panel and then you are looked after by the Elite Referees Committee and they’d appoint observers to look at us and run workshops at regional and national level which helps us progress.
“I work as a teacher in Ardscoil Rís in Limerick. Fortunately the school have been really good to me and are supportive of my refereeing career. It can be difficult to balance that with work, your training and life outside of the game.
“In regards to my aims for 2017, I hope to perform consistently throughout the year and give my best in every game I go into. Everything else is outside of my control."
Current Irish referees on the FIFA International Panel: REFEREES: Neil Doyle, Paul McLaughlin, Paula Brady, Robert Harvey, Robert Hennessy. ASSISTANT REFEREES: Allen Lynch, Emmet Dynan, Wayne McDonnell, Michelle O’Neill, Robert Clarke, Sinead Forde, Dermot Broughton, Mark Gavin, Darren Carey, Darragh Keegan. FUTSAL REFEREES: Simon Rogers, David Berry.