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Irish pioneer makes shocking career move

NEWS: One of Ireland’s top referees has opted to call it a day at the end of the season.

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Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed that Joy Neville will retire from officiating and has taken up a new role as the new Referee Development Manager in Connacht.

As part of her new role, Neville will work with key provincial personnel to recruit, educate and retain referees to provide for the needs of the game, as well as to develop referees from Trainee Referee to National Panel.

Neville played her Club career with Shannon and UL Bohemians and also represented her home province Munster with distinction. In all she won 70 caps for Ireland, captaining the team during the 2009 Women’s Six Nations Championship, leading the Ireland women to their inaugural win over France. She also won a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 and featured in two Women’s Rugby World Cups, in 2006 and 2010.

Upon her retirement from the game, the Limerick woman rose through the ranks at the All-Ireland League, World Rugby Sevens Series, URC, EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup tournaments. Joy refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup final in 2017 and won the World Rugby Referee Award that same year.

She was also appointed for the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2021 and a few months ago was named by World Rugby to officiate as a TMO at the Men’s World Cup in France alongside three of her IRFU colleagues Andrew Brace, Chris Busby and Brian MacNeice.

“When I first took up the whistle after my playing career concluded, I could never have imagined the places the game would take me. To be involved in, firstly, the Women’s World Cup Final was a huge honour and to then progress through to the Men’s World Cup made me incredibly proud and it’s only when I look back now that I can truly appreciate those achievements,” Neville said.

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“To all those who have helped foster my love of the game to this point, especially all my family, friends and mentors in and outside the game, thank you for your support. Although tinged with sadness as one hugely fulfilling chapter closes in my career, I am delighted that I can continue my career in Irish rugby with such an ambitious group in Connacht. I’m grateful for this opportunity and excited to help develop the next crop of match officials across the province in the new year.”

Commenting on Neville’s decision IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora said: “On behalf of the IRFU I would like to thank Joy for her incredible service to Irish rugby.

“Since her retirement as a player following an illustrious career, she has diligently applied herself to match officiating and steadily risen the ranks to the highest levels of the game.

“A pioneer for women’s sport in Ireland, it is fitting that she bows out at the top having recently become the first female match official to officiate at a Men’s Rugby World Cup. I am delighted that Joy has agreed to continue her long and distinguished association with Irish rugby and would like to wish her well in her new role with Connacht.”

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IRFU Head of Referees Dudley Phillips added: “Joy has been an incredible servant to Irish rugby and she can look back on her refereeing career with great pride. As somebody who continues to blaze a trail for young men and women, I am delighted that she will continue to inspire the next generation of match officials in Connacht.”

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