Marion Hayden is a renowned LGFA referee and a valued member of Éire Óg club. Her application of the rules, communication with players, and expert handling of the game have led her to officiate numerous significant occasions, including the Leinster LGFA Senior Ladies Football Final.

Marion made history by becoming the first woman to referee a men’s football championship game in County Carlow. This milestone occurred during the summer of 2023 when she officiated the match between Kilbride and Kildavin-Clonegal. In the world of refereeing, Marion stands as a leading example of what hard work and talent can achieve.

What positive changes have you witnessed in the acceptance and support for female referees in Gaelic football, and how can we continue to foster inclusivity in sports officiating?

Since I started referring in 2017, there has been a positive development in support to referees through online and e learning accessibility for referees in general over recent years, it is constantly updating and improving. There are constant rules tests, match clips & mentoring available now compared to years ago. Because of the small network of referees within the county, the support on the ground is reassuring and new referees are made feel welcome and supported. I think continuing to appoint games on bigger days on the capability of the referee regardless of their gender will help to grow the profile. All referees want to ref on bigger days and if this is not attainable then there will probably be a bigger drop off at the earlier stages of females entering the refereeing world within the GAA.

What advice would you offer to other women aspiring to officiate at the highest levels of sport?

Go for it, give it a try, what is the worst that can happen? It is very rewarding as well as an amazing way to stay fit and focused and most of all to stay involved in the game. The thought of doing it is a lot more daunting than actually doing it.

However, to climb the ranks there is the same level of commitment, honesty and fitness required as with playing the game at the highest level. Find yourself a good training partner that will push you to your limits to help make training that little bit easier. Once you can commit to the highest standard of preparation necessary, then there are no limits on where you can go.

What initiatives or measures do you think sports organisations can implement to encourage and support more women in pursuing careers in sports officiating?

I think it should be widely encouraged and supported by sporting organisations within their own areas or clubs. Perhaps targeting specific demographics within the club structures for both male and female referees.

I think the introduction of the young whistlers has been a great success across the counties. I feel there is a big opportunity to target retiring footballers and hurlers/ camogie players to come on board the refereeing journey. It is a great way to give back to the club and county as well as keeping fit. There can be a huge void left for players who are coming to the end of their footballing or hurling/camogie careers and refereeing can do so much to fill that void.

In Carlow we are currently working with the Ladies county board on a new initiative for younger lady referees, like the young whistlers they will referee underage go game style matches within their own clubs, accompanied by a mentor on game nights. In this situation we would expect positive support from the mentors, as well as the supporters of each Club. There will be an educational benefit for the younger players that are playing, with a more encouraging role from the young whistler referee. We will have a slightly older group to ref the next age group. We believe there will be huge advantage to educating both the young referees and players at that age, where they will experience both sides of the coin and see the positives and benefit of becoming a female referee for the future.