Irish match officials were active throughout the Six Nations Championships with referees involved in the Men’s, Women’s and Under-20 tournaments. We spoke to Andrew Brace, Joy Neville and Sean Gallagher and profiled them in the match programmes on the weekend of the games against France. Today we hear from Joy.
When Joy Neville made her refereeing bow in an Under-15 schools match between St. Munchin’s College and CBC Cork back in December 2013, she never could have anticipated the path it would lead her down.
Despite being a Grand Slam winner with Ireland just eight months earlier, she admitted to a degree of apprehension for this assignment in Corbally.
“It was a friendly and I remember being more nervous about that game than any of my international games, would you believe, for some reason! Probably just because you’re out of your comfort zone and you’re starting something completely new,” said Neville, the former Ireland Women’s number 8 and captain.
“It was kinda like a ‘sink or swim’ scenario. I was very aware of it and thankfully I swam, but learnt a lot faster as a result. You just have to learn from your mistakes and learn from the different scenarios, and build on that.”
In the years that have followed, Neville has enjoyed a succession of groundbreaking achievements. After becoming the first female referee of a men’s All-Ireland League game in 2016, she went on to repeat this feat in the Welsh Premiership, the European Challenge Cup and the GUINNESS PRO14.
Additionally, the Limerick native remains heavily involved in Women’s rugby, having taken charge of the Women’s Rugby World Cup final at Kingspan Stadium two years ago. Following a decade of playing service in the competition, she is also a regular fixture in the Women’s Six Nations Championship.
“I’m massively involved in the Women’s game and I’ll always want to be involved massively in the Women’s game. I remember the last game (for Ireland against Italy) like it was yesterday, obviously the Grand Slam game. I’m loving it,” admitted the 2017 World Rugby Referee of the Year.
“I have England versus Scotland in Twickenham after the men’s game (in the last round of the Six Nations). Which I think will be very special. I haven’t refereed in Twickenham, I’ve played there. I’m thoroughly looking forward to that.”
Joy took charge of England v Scotland and was AR1 for France v Scotland in the Women’s Six Nations Championship and refereed the Under-20 Six Nations game between Scotland and Wales.