Claire Purcell (25) is one of the newest members of the FAI Elite Referee Panel. Born and bred in Waterford, Claire was the first female official to referee a Junior Cup Final in Ozier Park and refereed the Senior Women’s Cup Final in 2020. Daughter of Eleanor and Noel and the youngest of four with two sisters and a brother, Claire works as a key holder with a sports retail store in the city centre.
A Life in a Day
I wake up without an alarm at about 7:30am each day. I like to go for a morning walk for about an hour before I eat my breakfast, which is typically a bagel with boiled eggs. I drink a lot of water throughout the day which I find helps me stay focused and energetic. The national football season has just started so I’ve got to be at the peak of my fitness for the matches. I’m aiming to become a FIFA referee in order to officiate at the highest level in Europe and around the world.
I have a regular food and exercise plan at the moment which offers a nice structure to my days. Naturally, some days are more physically demanding than the others. My exercise includes resistance training and cardio training. I’m lucky to have the Eco Park in Kilbarry within walking distance of home so I find myself there regularly.
Throughout the day, I’ll find myself watching documentaries or comedies. I also spend time keeping in touch with friends and colleagues through Instagram which I enjoy.
If I’m not already there, my watch buzzes at 10:30pm each night and reminds me to get to bed. If I’m not quite ready to sleep I’ll go to bed either with a book or I’ll fall asleep listening to a podcast.
What school did you go to?
I attended St Ursula’s Primary school and St Angela’s Secondary School. I wasn’t very academic but I look back on my time there fondly.
What teacher do you remember most vividly?
I will always remember my Irish teacher, Ms Darmody, in Secondary School. She was always so laid back but made sure we did everything. I always found her so easy to listen to.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I have a lot of sympathy for teenagers today because there’s so much uncertainty in the world. It’s very complex being a teenager now – much more complicated than 10 years ago. I’d definitely encourage her to be optimistic and stay positive, regardless of what challenges she faces.
How do you relax?
I feel really relaxed after a weight lifting session. To relax with friends, I’ve started distance running and I find that really rewarding. For quiet time with family, I’ll take an Americano and have a chat. If I want to be by myself, I relax by watching every crime documentary I can find.
What is your favourite film and piece of music?
I really miss going to the cinema because I love films. I enjoy anything rom-com wise but if you’re forcing to choose I guess I’d have to say ‘The Notebook’. I love music as well and anything 80s will give me a burst of energy. ‘You Can Call Me Al’ by Paul Simon is my favourite song.
When was the last time you cried?
I was bereaved recently when my uncle Brian passed away following an illness. We were really close and I miss him very much. Everybody is saddened when we lose loved ones but I count myself fortunate to have had that relationship and I try to focus on the positives.
What has been your happiest moment of recent times?
I was so pleased to be appointed to referee the FAI Women’s Senior Cup Final in Tallaght Stadium last November. It may seem strange but referees have excellent camaraderie together and it was such a pleasure to share that moment with my peers locally and nationally.
Do you pray?
I don’t pray. I wouldn’t consider myself particularly spiritual either, however I do have an open mind.
What is your biggest fear?
Flying! I get very anxious when I think about airplanes. I have such a fear of landing in water. I think everybody gets a fright when they see a spider too.
What is your most treasured possession?
I’m a bit of a minimalist and I don’t have too many material treasures. I try to avoid clutter and I’m slow to buy any unnecessary gadgets. I’m learning to drive at the moment so I suppose my car is my most treasured possession right now.
What is your favourite thing about Waterford?
I love our hidden beaches. I love the fresh air and of course I love the summer sun. I love that the Greenway has made the river accessible in a way that it wasn’t when I was younger. I think we’re really lucky to have the sea, mountains and river so close by. I also have my parents Noel and Eleanor and my family here. I’m a homebird, so I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?
Whenever I visit bigger cities, I enjoy browsing shops. I would spend hours upon hours in Ikea if there was one in Waterford and likewise if there were some larger fashion brands here I would definitely appreciate it.
In conversation with Dermot Keyes