Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Tommy Dickson/INPHO Con O'Callaghan takes on David Garland in the 2019 league.
# white coat
The Monaghan footballer who moonlights as an inter-county umpire
David Garland, part of Banty McEneaney’s Farney squad, umpired at a Division 3 game earlier this year.

DAVID GARLAND WAS surely the only inter-county player to have umpired at a National League game in 2020. 

The Monaghan senior panellist wore the white coat as part of referee Martin McNally’s officiating team for the Division 3 clash between Louth and Longford back in January.

It took place just three days before he won man-of-the-match for DCU in their Sigerson Cup final victory.

He rejoined the Farney squad at the end of February after taking a break to focus on county league and then colleges action.

His interest in umpiring began after a chance meeting a few years ago with Monaghan whistler McNally, who needed an umpire for a McRory Cup game in Inniskeen.

“I was just finished school and bumped into him,” says Garland. “It was a school football game so it’s nice to go out and see other schools. I think St Pat’s, Cavan were playing St Ronan’s, Lurgan in a league game.

“So I went out and done it and enjoyed doing it. It just took off from there. Did many a game after it.

“I put on the white coat there. I put it on recently enough for the Trench (Cup) final as well. I do it the odd time whenever I can.

“I do it for Martin McNally, I’ve done it for him right up through the years whenever I was a bit younger, 16, 17, 18 whenever you had more free time on your hands.

“And yeah, I got the travel the length and breadth of the country with him to see some great grounds and great games along the way.

“Ah umpiring, it can be a challenging game as well but I enjoy doing it, it gets you out of the house for a few hours and it’s all experience as well.”

david-garland-with-martin-oconnor Oisin Keniry / INPHO Garland during the 2020 Sigerson Cup final. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

As a pacey attacker himself, Garland has an ideal view to study the runs inside forwards make when he’s umpiring games.

A stand-out memory from his days on the posts was getting a front row seat for David Clifford’s eight-point masterclass in the 2016 All-Ireland minor semi-final against Kildare.

“You were watching him, he was kicking them from everywhere. His movement inside – you were standing so close it was hard not to notice him.

“Even watching other great forwards playing from different counties, you’d pick up bits here and there. It’s really good to watch them.”

He helps out McNally whenever he can and is no stranger to receiving abuse from players during games. Garland admits it gives him more empathy for officials when he laces up his boots and decisions don’t do his way.

“Absolutely. Even myself, there’s a fair few players that would dog you a couple of times on the posts.

“They wouldn’t hold back and you’re just saying to yourself, ‘Jesus Christ, do I act like that in games?’ You’d be sort of thinking to yourself, at the end of the day it’s really worth saying nothing to the umpires.

“Because as every one of them says back to the players, ‘I’m not the one that has the whistle and it’s as simple as that.’”

david-garland Laszlo Geczo / INPHO David Garland with his Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Rising Star Football Player of the Year trophy. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

At 21 he has plenty of football left to play but says a move into refereeing would interest him after his career is over.

“Ah maybe down the line I could see myself being in the middle. I’m not ready now to be a referee but maybe down the line.

“If the wages were good!” he quips.

The Donaghmoyne ace has been part of the Monaghan panel since 2018 but has yet to log significant game-time as he battles to break into a talented attack that includes Conor McManus and Conor McCarthy.

It’s been a frustrating couple of years on the fringes of the county panel.

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“You were in there in 2018, didn’t get much football. In 2019 as well, played two league matches. You were missing your club football in the summer, becoming a wee bit rusty, you weren’t as sharp.

“Last year I was going to go to America, the club said to hang around, we were going to give the intermediates a good rattle. We got to the intermediate final against Magheracloone, who got to the All-Ireland final.

“We won the intermediate league and got promoted and then the next thing on the agenda was Sigerson football so just wanted to give that a good rattle and then back into county.

“You’re going in confident, on the back of a high playing Sigerson that you feel you’re ready to push on and make a real impact.”

He’s hopeful his strong showing in the Sigerson Cup, where he was named Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Rising Star Football Hurling Player of the Year, will help him jump up the pecking order. 

The PE and biology student is already familiar with new boss Seamus ‘Banty’ McEneaney as he works for him in Foley’s Pub on Merrion Row in Dublin.

Monaghan have been very strong performers in Division 1 over the past decade and Garland is hopeful their experience of winter football will stand to them when the championship commences in October.

“We could always dig out results in the league, we could always start off the league very well. Even the McKenna Cup, we’d always get close to semi-finals or quarter-finals.

“So we’d see the winter football as a challenge alright, and we’ll rise to it. Hopefully on our day, we can produce the performances and hopefully get a few shock results in there.” 

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