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The Cork Branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society was founded in September 1960 at the A.O.H. Hall on Morrison’s Island. Twelve members were present: Sam Allen, Joe Bray, Frank Casey, Jim Mullins, Joe Hurley, Joe Riordan, Owen McCarthy, Sylvester Greger, S. O’Connell, C. Crowley, W. Horgan and Sammy Spillane. Joined later by other greats such as Derry Barrett and Rory O’Connor among others
The ’70s saw the emergence of a wealth of talent from the Cork Branch. Derry Barrett took charge of the three match F.A.I. Cup Final between Bohemians and Sligo Rovers at Dalymount Park in 1970. Derry also travelled the continent on European duty. Around the same time Noel and Barry Kearney, Kevin O’Sullivan, Gerry McGrath, and Eddie McGeough were making the breakthrough into League of Ireland football. Billy O’Neill, an established FIFA Referee joined the branch in 1970 due to his work commitment in Cork. Kevin O’Sullivan joined the branch in 1971 and refereed minor, junior, intermediate and national finals by 1973. He was appointed to the League of Ireland panel in 1973 and his first European Line came in 1975. He was a leading legislator in the laws of the game through the seventies and eighties and a writing of text entitled; “The Spirit of the Game” credited to him is soon to be included on the ‘Articles’ web page of this website.
In 1972, the Cork Amateur Referees Society was formed, within the Cork Schoolboys League with Billy Falvey as a founder member. The formation of the amateur society gave the schoolboys section the recognition it required to also become a professional organisation and to amalgamate with the established society.
The eighties began with the appointment of Kevin O’Sullivan to referee the F.A.I. Cup Final between Waterford and St. Patrick’s Athletic, assisted by Eddie McGeough and Tony O’Sullivan.
The nineties provided a period of change, brought about in principle by the innovative changes in the Laws of the Game, in the early part of the decade, and by the departure of many experienced members in the latter years. In 1994, Sammy Spillane officially retired from refereeing after a remarkable 52 years of participation. Two years later, on May 24th, Pat Kelly bade farewell to an illustrious career. Pat became the senior F.A.I. assessor for Munster in 1997 and in turn was made a UEFA assessor in 1998. Derry Barrett retired from active refereeing on February 24th 1997 but a very low point in the branch’s history took place a little over a year later, when Derry’s untimely death on July 31st saddened the world of football in general. The branch showed its strength and togetherness with its huge turnout at the funeral in uniform to escort the cortege to the church. The branch continued to produce excellent young referees who would make their way onto the National League panel and in turn the FIFA panel. Among these were Aiden O’Regan, Brian O’Regan, Tom Tully and in recent years, Anthony Buttimer, Alan Kelly, Stephen O’Connell, Graham Kelly, Eddie McNally & now Ken Hennessey and Keith Calnan.
An essential service within the branch since it’s inception back in the seventies, has been the liaison service, operated solely and effectively by Eddie Mullins. As Eddie has commented on so many occasions in the past, the service is for the benefit of the referee and not the individual leagues. He has worked tirelessly in ensuring that all matches are staffed, and with the full co-operation of the members, the service has been an overwhelming success. It cannot be taken for granted the work and effort involved and it would be unthinkable to imagine this service not to be available.
The highlight of the decade was Eddie Foleys’s appointments to officiate at both the World Cup in France in 1998 and the European Championships in Holland & Belgium 2000. The hard and diligent work put in by the likeable official from Youghal, emphasised the dedication and commitment necessary to attain the standard required to be selected for such a competition. The fact that he was the first to do so from this country was not only a personal achievement for Eddie himself, but brought a great deal of satisfaction to the Cork Branch. His appointment to officiate in the European Championships in Holland/Belgium in 2000 was a further boost to the society and another reason why it’s members should strive to follow in his footsteps.
Cork referees have continued to receive appointments to many of the major competitions, in 1997, Tony Gunning took charge of the Intermediate Cup Final at Turner’s Cross, while Christy Byrne had a similar appointment in 1999, and since Tom Tully, Graham Kelly, Finbarr Murphy, Damien O’Mahony & John Lyne have all Refereed an Intermediate Cup Final and Gene Stephens has Refereed the FAI Junior Cup Final, with Pat Murphy doing an Oscar Traynor Final. Chris Buckley’s appointment to referee the SFAI U14 Goodson Cup Final on Sunday May 21st 2000 created domestic football history by becoming the first lady to referee a national cup final.