Bar­man Sean heads for Texas to ref Dal­las Cup

OF­FI­CI­AT­ING AT TOUR­NA­MENT FEA­TUR­ING LA GALAXY YOUTHS

Bray People - - NEWS - MARY FOG­A­RTY

BRAY BAR­MAN Sean O’Con­nor (26) will be pulling play­ers up on their carry-on in­stead of pulling pints when he spends ten days in Texas as a ref­eree for the in­ter­na­tional Dal­las Cup tour­na­ment.

This is the first time an Ir­ish ref­eree has been in­volved in the tour­na­ment. It’s in­vi­ta­tion only, with youth teams from Manch­ester United, Real Madraid, and Ire­land’s own Sham­rock Rovers among those to have taken part in the past.

Sean is well known across the counter in Bray, where he has worked for the Martello and as­so­ci­ated bars for the past three years.

How­ever, he has been a ref­eree for dou­ble that time. While Sean played soc­cer for Cabin­teely as a youth, and loved it, the time came for him to choose and ref­er­ee­ing was for him.

On Satur­day af­ter­noons and Sun­day morn­ings, week af­ter week, his men­tal and phys­i­cal agility is put to the test on the pitch.

‘You start with a beginners course and grade four, then work up to grade one, which is where I am now. That’s one step away from ref­er­ee­ing League of Ire­land matches,’ he says.

In a world of dreams come true, he’ll work to­wards the ‘School of Ex­cel­lence’, and ul­ti­mately FIFA.

Sean does around three matches at the weekend, usu­ally a few schools and one col­lege game.

He said that per­sonal al­le­giances do not come on to the pitch, so if he sup­ported one of the teams play­ing, that would be ir­rel­e­vant.

‘ You take it so se­ri­ously,’ he said. ‘ You can’t al­low yourself to be any­thing but ob­jec­tive and you’d be just as tough on your own team.’

Of course ref­er­ees can come up for se­ri­ous abuse on oc­ca­sion, but Sean dis­misses it as mostly ban­ter. ‘Only once did I have a close call. A player went for me but the cap­tain of his own team dragged him away be­fore any­thing hap­pened.’

He agrees that adren­a­line and frus­tra­tion can some­times lead to frayed tem­pers, and the ref is an ob­vi­ous re­cip­i­ent of the rage. ‘ They’re ob­vi­ous- ly go­ing to vent on ei­ther their op­po­nent or you’ said Sean, adding that there can be some ‘colourful’ lan­guage on the soc­cer pitch.

His own train­ing is pretty in­tense, with three ses­sions a week, one of those with the so­ci­ety in Dublin.

Start­ing, stop­ping, jog­ging, walk­ing and sprint­ing all in the space of 90 min­utes re­quires stamina and fit­ness, and Sean said that even a short break can set you back.

The evening be­fore matches, he wouldn’t even have one beer as the brain has to be as up-tospeed as the body.

There are 22 play­ers, the ball, coaches and man­agers, subs, and in some cases as­sis­tants to con­cen­trate on.

‘But if there are no as­sis­tants and the ref­eree is in­jured, the game stops,’ said Sean. No pres­sure then.

In the forth­com­ing Dal­las Cup, 180 teams from all over the world will com­pete for the ti­tle cur­rently held by Ful­ham FC.

LA Galaxy, Ein­tra­cht Frankfurt and FC Dal­las are just some of the teams in­volved from kick-off on Mon­day.

With up to six matches to of­fi­ci­ate daily, he’ll have his work cut out for him how­ever or­gan­is­ers will ar­range a cou­ple of spe­cial evenings for the ref­er­ees.

The Ir­ish Soc­cer Ref­eree So­ci­ety has spon­sored Sean’s travel ex­penses. While there are no wages for do­ing the tour­na­ment, the ex­pe­ri­ence is in­valu­able. The Bally­brack man will leave for the US on Fri­day with all of the best wishes of Bray and be­yond.

Ref­eree Sean O’Con­nor is off to the USA.

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