25 May 2012
Johnny Lacey has his biggest refereeing moment at hand. He goes to Twickenham on Sunday for the match between England and the Barbarians - what a great place, what a great occasion, how exciting for a referee as he climbs the ladder!
Johnny Lacey is a rare breed of referee in these days - a top player on the way to becoming a top referee, which explains why he is 38 and just now breaking through. He first had a playing career.
The playing career for the young man from Abbey Christian Brothers' School in Tipperary was steadily - Clanwilliam FC, Sundays Well RFC, Shannon RFC and then up to playing wing and fullback for Munster, the Ireland Development XV and Ireland Sevens. Then he started refereeing - by accident.
In April 2007 he was at a schools final when the referee did not pitch up and Gerry Moore of the Munster Branch sent Lacey out to referee. He says: "It went okay, I think."
It certainly has gone well since then as he moved up the club ladder and on to the Magners League and Pro 12, the Amlin Challenge Cup, the Heineken Cup, two bouts of the Junior World Championship (in Argentina and Italy) and then to Test matches in the European Nations Cup (Romania vs Spain) and the IRB Nations Cup (Russia vs Uruguay), amongst others, on a path well ordered for him.
He has some interesting travelling ahead - refereeing in the pacific and assisting in Port Elizabeth when South Africa play England. No doubt, being unmarried makes mobility easier!
Of course he had help along the way - from the 'Munster Association of Referees, David McHugh (the former international referee) and especially Owen Doyle (Ireland's Director of Refereeing).
And he has had refereeing heroes - 'David McHugh (When I was a player he always got me for a penalty or two), Alain Rolland and Alan Lewis for being two of the best ever and a great help to me personally, and Owen Doyle for all the refereeing stories of years gone by. I love them."
Lacey loves refereeing - the best seat in the house and a delightful challenge, but he also has ambitions - 'to make a World Cup Finals and Referee at the Top Level for the next eight years'.
The whole refereeing world will wish him well.