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An Irishwoman Made History In The Challenge Cup Last Night

An Irishwoman Made History In The Challenge Cup Last Night
By Conall Cahill Updated

There was history made in the European Cup on Thursday night as Joy Neville, who led Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2013, became the first female assistant referee in European rugby history during the Challenge Cup match between Bristol and Bath at the Recreation Ground in Bath.

By all accounts it seemed to be a fairly uneventful debut for Neville, who retired from the international rugby scene in 2013 after 70 caps for Ireland over 11 years.

A couple of years ago, talking to the 'Limerick Leader', Neville admitted that she initially found the game very hard to view "from a referee's perspective rather than a player's perspective", but she soon established herself as a respected official within the game, refereeing the European Women's 7s Grand Prix and going on to referee in the Ulster Bank League before, in March of this year, taking charge of Wales vs England in a men's under 18 international. She also held the line for Leinster v Treviso in the Pro12 last month (after performing in the same fixture in May).

In that interview with the 'Leader', Neville said she "would love to see a woman referee, myself or someone else, refereeing in Division 1 of the AIL. Once that happens, a lot more could be possible with regard to women refereeing."

Neville seems to have surpassed her own expectations by refereeing in the European Cup - it will be interesting to see where her career can evolve to from here. Either way, it is a great sign in the push for equality of opportunity in sport.

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