Barman Sean heads for Texas to ref Dallas Cup
OFFICIATING AT TOURNAMENT FEATURING LA GALAXY YOUTHS
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.