MOTIVATOR, warm-up coach, kit man, and water boy are just some of the roles Eric O’Driscoll enjoyed this season with Cobh Ramblers’ U17s.
At a time when Covid halted local leagues, referee O’Driscoll found himself with a lot of free time.
Not sure when games would return, an opportunity to coach at National League level came up, and although it meant making sacrifices, the father of three felt it was an opportunity he could not refuse.
Here, the former Avondale and Ringmahon player tells us about his passion for the game as he juggles refereeing and coaching.
“Dean Buckley, a very good friend of mine, who is assistant to Darren Dennehy, had asked if I would be interested in coming on board for the 2021 season which gave me a huge headache knowing I would need to step away from the referees' society for the duration as you can’t be involved with any club as a society member.
“When weighing up the pros and the cons, I came to the conclusion I would be very foolish to turn down an offer from a League of Ireland club as the offer might not come around again.
Also, at the time, all local leagues were ceased due to Covid and had no indicator as to when we would return.
“My role predominantly has been on the conditioning side, getting the lads up to peak fitness coming into the season, monitoring fitness levels as the season went on with Darren and Dean, dealing with workload and injuries, and on matchdays motivator, warm-up, kit man and water boy.
We had a superb season and reached the National League final against Shelbourne, managed by Damien Duff.
"Unfortunately, we couldn’t get over the line and claim the shield as Shelbourne won on penalties after an even match with few chances.
“We were obviously very disappointed to lose and the players were devastated, but we couldn’t fault the effort put in by every player from the start of the season to the last; an exceptional group of players who formed an incredible bond, more like best friends than team-mates.”
A busy season for the Hollyhill man, but he is undecided about his plan for next season.
“This is my fifth season as a referee, three seasons in the schoolboys and two on the youths panel.
“After playing for 20 years with Avondale and Ringmahon with one season in the CBL with Lakelands Celtic, I hung up my boots at 33 and was looking for a way to keep involved.
“I love coaching, but with a young family, the hours you put into running a team, literally a seven-day a week job for nine months, wasn’t feasible at the time so I decided to do the referee course in Midleton and see what would come of that and I enjoyed it immensely.
“Pat Walsh and Eddie Foley ran the course and sold it immediately to me. Being a member of the society really upped my game, the tips you pick up from the experienced referees are essential in becoming a better referee.
No referee goes out to make mistakes, but being fit, getting into a decent position, knowing the laws, and having common sense will help limit the mistakes and hopefully facilitate an enjoyable game for both teams.
“Obviously, the rules are in the society that you can’t be involved with a club and be a society referee as it’s a conflict of interest and I fully respect that. The door is always open for a return to the society and for any new referee it is definitely the choice to make.
“I never stopped reffing so it was a really busy season. James Fogarty, the youths league fixture secretary, was very accommodating with my matches so I could do both.
“With the national league season just finished, I am grateful for some spare time as I’m sure the wife is; plenty to get stuck into around the house with Christmas around the corner, so as for next season we will have to wait and see, as of now I am looking forward to having a few evenings in front of the fire with the family.”