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Denis Shanagher, Sr.



Denis Shanagher Sr. was the Captain of Dublin’s Bective Rangers when they won the Leinster Cup in 1955. He declined an invitation to play Hooker for Ireland in order to emigrate to the United States, and following an injury, decided that he could contribute to American rugby by becoming a referee.

Shanagher was the pioneering referee in Northern California, the Pacific Coast and the USA from 1957 – 1987.  He founded and was the Chairman of the Northern California Referee’s Society.  He was a founder and President of the Pacific Coast Rugby Union and on the original Board of Directors of the USARFU. As a referee, he was the first U.S. referee to handle an international match, refereeing the US – Canada game in 1977. Shanagher was the first to insist on publication of the rules of the game, to require referee training, and to create and insist on standards for referee evaluation.

He was a constant fixture for nearly thirty years as a referee for Stanford, Cal, regional and national club championships, USARFU inter-territorial tournaments, the Monterey Tournament, and for international touring sides.  Indeed, he was the original standard by which quality referees were evaluated in the United States, was the inspiration behind many young referees embracing the sport, and his passion and dedication toward the growth of game was a key to the founding of the USARFU and the success of the sport in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.