There is not much Slane referee David Gough hasn’t done in Croke Park, he’s taken charge of big games, issued a red car in an All Ireland final and even operated the replays on the big screens, but there is one thing he hasn’t done yet, and openly admits he is not of a mind to do it either and that is take the Skywalk.
That is the walkway that runs around the roof of the venue and while walking out in front of 80;000 people sees Gough nerveless he is scared stiff of heights.
And he says he has tried everything to conquer it.
‘I would have to admit that the one thing that scares me is heights. I have never been comfortable with them and my legs tend to lock and find it difficult to move the higher I go. I still haven’t done the Skywalk in Croke Park yet but I have made many attempts to overcome my fears – including a 10,000 feet skydive, climbing the Eiffel Tower (an experience I would rather not have had) as well as standing on glass floors in the tallest buildings in Abu Dhabi and Calgary.
‘ One of the most uncomfortable moments though was a romantic dinner in the 360 Revolving Restaurant CN Tower in Toronto with my partner where I sat lopsided in my chair for over an hour as the planes landed underneath me in Toronto Island Airport.’
Gough recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of his coming out as gay, and clearly recalls that the funniest, and most original piece of abuse he received at a game had to do with his sexuality.
‘It was a provincial club match and as we came off at half time a spectator, I assume from the side that was losing, shouted down, ‘Does your boyfriend know you are screwing us as well’, if he ever gets to read this I hope he knows I genuinely got a great laugh out of it.’
Strange as it may seem when Gough speaks to an audience the question he is most often asked is not related to football at all.
‘ The one I’m often asked when I visit second level schools to speak on LGBT Stand Up Week – Who does your hair it’s always immaculate? – and I’ll supply the answer ….. Niall Coyne from Bedford Stuy has cut my hair for the past 8 years – All Ireland Finals, Late Late Show Appearances, Pride and so many more .’
Being from Slane, Gough grew up with rock concerts on his doorstep and has no doubts about his favourite gig at the iconic Slane Castle venue.
‘My favourite Slane Castle Concert was in 1999 when Robbie Williams returned after stealing the show in 1998. The best memories are walking down from the Village Inn with my teammates to many concerts when I was younger.’
Known for his ability to converse freely on most subjects who would he most like to invite to dinner.
There are four guests allowed, they can be dead or alive who would he opt for.
‘The first would be Roger Federer, apart from being the Best Tennis Player of all time he is actually quite witty and fun. For entertainment reasons and because she is also a bit mad I’d invite my favourite singer Celine Dion (I went to see her sing in Hyde Park in London 2019).
‘ A bit closer to home now and to keep the mood light I would have to invite Tommy Tiernan (he makes me howl and I can often be seen running the Grand Canal in stitches listening to his podcast). Lastly I would invite one of my biggest inspirations, Nigel Owens.’
It’s not just players and spectators who like to have a pop at referees, the analysts on the Sunday Game don’t hold back either, but there is one Gough rates highly, and he also feels there is one area open for improvement on the popular RTE show.
‘Which analyst is the most constructive ? This is an easy answer, there is just one – Kevin McStay. I think there should be a section where an ex referee explains the rules – their wording, their meaning and their implementation. It would help educate so many people as to what we are actually trying to do on the field. ‘
What he wasn’t trying to do, but ended up having to do, in the 2019 final was hand out a red card, Dublin’s Johnny Cooper being the unfortunate recipient something one imagines may have leant a bit of am edge to the traditional post All Ireland meal, or at least it could have had the officials and teams dined together.
‘Contrary to what a lot of people think the officials do not generally go to the Players’ Lounge – we are invited to join the President of the GAA and the Ard Stiúrathóir with their partners (along with the 8 match officials and their partners and some invited guests) for a very relaxed but exquisite meal where the umpires are presented with their All Ireland Medals – I have to wait for the Referee Banquet (held every 2ndyear) to receive mine – and I haven’t received my 2019 medal yet.’
Always one to give thoughtful consideration to his own game, David feels there is one rule from another sport could improve things in the GAA, certainly it would sharpen up the behaviour of those in the dug out.
‘I’ve often spoken about the Green Card Rule I have seen in Hockey (I am not advocating a new colour card be brought into GAA) but a new rule where the captain of the team is sin binned for a duration of time (open to discussion on the length) for the behaviour of his management team – be that aggressive remonstration with a match official or otherwise – the reason being a suspension post match (especially if the team is losing and going to be knocked out) is not deterrent. The sanction needs to be contemporaneous .’
Family is not only important to Gough it forms the basis of his umpiring crew, his dad, Eugene, brother Stephen, uncle Terry and cousin Dean, are his regular group, and he feels that rather than make any abuse they might get more personal because they are family, it helps because he understands precisely how they will react to any given situation.
‘It actually makes it easier. I know my umpires tolerance levels and what their definition of respect is. It is easier to know if they are offended or not and that makes it easier for me to deal with.’
Relaxing away from the pressure of being the man in the middle the elite level whistler enjoys TV
but only certain shows.
‘If I walked into a room and there one of the weekly Soap Operas on I would turn round and walk out again, it is live sports only in my house, I picked that up from my Granny Alice, my dads mother.’
He nearly ended up on a popular TV show himself, there was a distinct possibility he could have featured on Dancing With The Stars if refereeing duties had allowed.
Just like on the pitch Goughs decision on this one is final, ‘Sssh nobody knows about that’
Say no more we would hate to drop him in it from great height