Cork ref Alan Kelly is staying positive despite soccer shutdown in America 

Cork ref Alan Kelly is staying positive despite soccer shutdown in America 

Referee Alan Kelly in the middle for a friendly between the Airtricity League XI and Manchester United at Aviva Stadium. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

MAKING the most of this downtime, MLS referee Alan Kelly is kept busy with online education training as well as recovering from an injury that ruled him out at the beginning of the season.

The Cork native, like many others involved in the game, finds this a crazy time but believes staying in and staying healthy is the only option. In doing so, he is trying his best to keep connected with the game as much as possible.

“Over the past couple of weeks our VAR and referee managers have been sending us clips to analyse, so it’s like video testing really on specific incidents,” said Kelly.

“This has certainly kept us engaged and mentally ticking over from a football perspective which I would imagine will be an ongoing programme for us until we get back to some normality.”

Referee Alan Kelly shows a red card to David Webster, Bray Wanderers, before he moved to the MLS in America. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Referee Alan Kelly shows a red card to David Webster, Bray Wanderers, before he moved to the MLS in America. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

The league in America was only two weeks in when football was put to a halt. At that time Kelly had not yet begun refereeing as he is currently injured.

And although he was still very much involved in games through VAR, been injured was a nightmare for him, but he was grateful to have VAR, as opposed to sitting at home while been injured.

‘‘I’m injured for the past 10 weeks and although a disaster, at least I can cycle, walk and do home gym. Walking is a daily thing now where I get to go about three times a day.

While injured I was working a lot with VAR. Not physically able to referee is not ideal but VAR kept me involved. From a mental point of view, it was great not being at home injured, but instead working on VAR meant that I’m still part of the crew, still involved on match day, and part of the game which is great.”

So what’s life like for Kelly during these crazy Covid-19 times?

“Staying in and being safe is paramount. Over here we’re not technically on ‘lockdown’ as such, but instead, it’s more of a ‘stay at home order’.

There are no restrictions on how far we can go but everybody has taken that really as a lockdown.

“Apart from supermarkets, we haven’t been anywhere else really. We’re lucky to be in a neighbourhood where you can go for a walk and the kids can play ball in the garden, and that keeps us sane.

“The kids have been doing great to be fair, as we have a schedule now as opposed to cruising through the day aimlessly. Their schools send out online work so that’s given them a routine and that’s important.”

FLASHBACK: Alan Kelly is presented with the referee of the year award from Stephen McGuinness and Fran Gavin at the 2005 PFAI Awards. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
FLASHBACK: Alan Kelly is presented with the referee of the year award from Stephen McGuinness and Fran Gavin at the 2005 PFAI Awards. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

He’s been kept busy every day.

“From a training point of view, our sports science team are in touch with us every day, still giving us our programs. Our employers have mailed us resistance bands and weights etc as gyms are closed so I’ve been lucky enough to have a basement area that I have set up as a home gym.

“Without this stoppage, I would have missed three months of the season, and although I’m still hoping we will be back sooner rather than later, it still gives me a chance to recover, and I suppose not miss as many games.

“Our daily programmes are different for a few of us as it depends on where people live as some areas don’t allow lads to leave their blocks. Thankfully we can run or cycle.

“In terms of education, last week was a scheduled camp week for us in Dallas, but instead, we had to be online as a virtual education session, two hours a day. So with regards to training and education, we’re pretty much staying as normal as we can.”

So when does Kelly expect to return to normality?

“From an MLS point of view, we’re not sure yet when we’ll be back. There seems to be contingency plan or a shorter season if it comes to it although MLS at the moment, even if back in June, is planning on a full season.

“That means the season will probably be extended out to mid-December. I would imagine it would be extra games midweek and weekend which would be physically testing for everyone involved. Training, game and travelling aspects for players and officials.”

Kelly, whose family love to come home to Cork as often as they can, were due to be home this week for Easter. Although disappointed not to, he will now look forward to the Christmas break, even more.

“We were due to come home to Cork for Easter as my father in law was turning 80. Obviously that was disappointing not being able to but we’re no different to thousands who had travel plans, but yes we always look forward to coming home. It’s difficult not been at home seeing parents at a time when they may need us more.

“Facetime is great and we’re pretty much onto them every day. They’re all following the government’s instructions so at least that’s less of a worry for us.

“We come home every Christmas and hopefully nothing will change this year even if the season runs on longer than normal.

“To be honest, the MLS would normally cater to finish as early as possible due to some areas weather-wise aren’t possible for games to go ahead, so up until last year, the league had finished by the first week of December.

“There is a bit of flexibility by playing midweek games etc so hopefully once we get started again, the league will run smoothly and we can enjoy the break at Christmas.”

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