Most nine-year-olds probably dream about scoring the winning goal in a Cup Final at Hampden Park.

Ronan’s ambitions are a little different.

He has his sights set on refereeing the big games instead, having honed his skills with a whistle day in, day out in the playground.

By chance, he even took part in a recent school trip to the nearby VAR Centre at Clydesdale House, where he met the Scottish FA’s Head of Referee Operations, Crawford Allan.

When we heard about Ronan and his unusual hobby, we reached out to our friends at Specsavers – who have supported Scottish football’s referees for 20 years.

They were kind enough to offer up a Match Official Escort slot for the recent Scottish Gas Men’s Scottish Cup semi-final between Aberdeen and Celtic.

We sent broadcaster Gordon Duncan along to surprise Ronan with a special referee goody-bag and the all-important invite to Hampden.

He was joined by Category One referee Nick Walsh, who has the honour of taking charge of this week’s Scottish Gas Men’s Scottish Cup Final.

It’s fair to say Nick was impressed by someone who could easily follow in his footsteps.

The Aspiring Referee

I play football as well, but I really enjoy refereeing games with my friends. For me, it’s more fun.

The hardest thing is making a decision when you’re far away, but if I get it wrong then they get on with the game.

I like to watch people like Nick Walsh, Willie Collum, Don Robertson and Matthew MacDermid.

It started when I was in primary three and I’d like to referee at the World Cup Final one day.

It was absolutely amazing to walk out at Hampden and carry the ball for Don. When I stepped out the tunnel, I thought my eardrums were going to burst. The atmosphere was amazing.

It made me think that I want to be in Don’s position one day.

I still can’t believe Nick surprised me at school. I got such a shock. He gave me some great advice and told me to keep going, even when people complain about something I’ve done on the pitch.

The Experienced Referee

I’ve never met anyone like Ronan. It was incredible to see how passionate and enthusiastic he is for refereeing.

He was all over that pitch! He must have covered every inch in the game that I watched.

He’s got a level of maturity beyond most adults, never mind someone at his age and stage. He had complete control of the game and the players accepted his decisions.

They were just enjoying the fact that someone was helping to facilitate the game or them.

Ronan’s obviously been watching some of the top guys, because his positioning and movement is down to a tee. He’s well prepared ahead of actually formally qualifying one day in the future.

If he keeps going, there are great opportunities to one day get involved in football at the highest level and have some incredible experiences.

The Dad

We’ve always been really passionate about football as a family. Both our kids play and it’s on all the time in the house. It’s a seven-day-a-week thing – a core part of our family life.

Ronan got into refereeing at a very early age and I’m still not exactly sure where it came from. We just remember him coming home one day and telling us he’d been refereeing in school.

I remember when we found yellow and red cards in his schoolbag. Then it was flags and a whistle.

When we take Ronan to watch games now he’s always interested to see who the referee is, as well as the wider team of officials. He’s always asking questions and paying close attention to what they’re doing.

We watch games differently now. I know I definitely look at things from a referee’s perspective. If we get annoyed by decisions, we talk about it.

When Ronan came back from school, on the day Nick surprised him, he was absolutely buzzing. It was a dream come true.

Whether it’s a fleeting interest or something he wants to pursue long-term, we’ll absolutely support him. It’s broadening his knowledge of the game and he’s learning personal and life skills as well.

The Depute Head Teacher

For the last couple of years, Ronan has been refereeing at breaks and lunchtimes.

It makes our jobs a lot easier! There can be 200 kids out there, but they know their games will be refereed fairly so they accept his decisions. It means we don’t even need to supervise the football.

Ronan’s got a such a great rapport with the other kids. He’s a very popular wee guy.

He also has a presence about him. There was a game two years ago when parents were allowed in. I remember one shout from the touchline that he took exception to. Ronan calmy went over and spoke to the parent and he didn’t say another word.

As a school we’re close to the VAR Centre. Our primary six class were going along for a visit but, given his interest in refereeing, we asked Ronan if he wanted to come as well and he really enjoyed the experience, as well as getting to ask Crawford Allan a few questions.

Ronan Durkin meets Crawford Allan

I think he’s destined to be a referee. He’s made for the big time. To be able to lead the referees out the way he did at Hampden… wow.

If you see it, you can be it. He’ll have looked at Nick and Don and thought ‘that could be me one day’.

Power of Football

Football has the power to do so much good by enriching and improving life in Scotland every day. It brings communities closer together, it builds relationships that will last forever and it is a lifeline for so many who need it.

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