Referee Pat Cronin on the growth of women's soccer in Cork

“There is still such a shortage of referees so I could do four to six games at the weekend."
Referee Pat Cronin on the growth of women's soccer in Cork

Referee Pat Cronin looks on as Riverstown's Shannon Carson attempts to round Lakewood's Sinead Kelly at Lakewood. Picture: Howard Crowdy

IF you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.

And for referee Pat Cronin, this saying couldn’t be more true as when he recalled how long he was refereeing, he shocked himself. 

Time certainly flies when you’re having fun, and for the 55-year-old Ballyvolane man, almost three decades since he first picked up the whistle, Cronin is enjoying it more than ever.

“When you’ve been refereeing for as long as I have been, then you must be enjoying it,” said Cronin.

“I began refereeing back in the '90s when Billy Falvey encouraged me to, and while refereeing was probably the last thing I thought I’d ever do, I’m glad I did it and I’m still enjoying it to this day.” 

The father of one to Katie played with a few different clubs growing up, Old Faranree, Rockmount, Blackpool Celtic and Leeds and while he enjoyed playing, he didn’t always see eye to eye with referees.

Like many youngsters, I was probably a nightmare for most referees when I played. So when I decided to take up refereeing, it was a big transition. 

"For me, I got to look at the game in a totally different way. I had to quickly develop a tolerance and I soon learned that the game was so much different from a referee's perspective. 

"As the years went by, I refereed in many different leagues, Munster Junior League, AUL, Shipping League, schoolboys and schoolgirls leagues. I must say I’ve had some great years with wonderful memories along the day. But like most people in life, there came a time when I needed a break.” 

JOURNEY

That break didn’t last too long. For Cronin what was meant to be a break from refereeing the lads' games, turned into the start of a journey refereeing the women’s game which has been ongoing for almost 15 years now.

“I decided to take a break from refereeing but was asked if I would give the ladies league a try as there was a shortage of referees. At first, I thought 'no way' to be honest, but I was persuaded and I’ve never looked back. 15 years later and I’m still there and I thoroughly enjoy it.

“When I began refereeing in the women’s game that became my main focus and since, I’d only referee the odd boys' games if they were stuck.” 

Team captains Barbara O'Connell of Wilton and Natasha Graham of Monaghan meet prior to the Women's FAI Intermediate Cup tie in 2012, watched by officials Lorna Callanan, referee Pat Murphy and Pat Cronin. Picture: Howard Crowdy.
Team captains Barbara O'Connell of Wilton and Natasha Graham of Monaghan meet prior to the Women's FAI Intermediate Cup tie in 2012, watched by officials Lorna Callanan, referee Pat Murphy and Pat Cronin. Picture: Howard Crowdy.

Cronin is often asked what are the main differences from refereeing in the women’s game as opposed to the lads, and quite surprisingly to some, he could only find one.

“The men’s game is a little quicker but apart from that, I don’t find any difference. Both are competitive, both are skillful and I don’t think refereeing one is easier than the other. While some people might say there’s less grief doing the girls' games, I disagree, as for me I’ve been lucky enough not to experience too much abuse over the years." 

He argues abuse is not always from the players, but more so to do with people on the sidelines, mainly parents.

"So for me, whether I’m refereeing boys or girls, it makes no difference and that’s why I am still doing it today.

“What I enjoy most about refereeing is seeing players develop and progress through the years. 

It has been fantastic to see the massive growth in the women’s game and I love to see players I’ve refereed move on to both the National League and International teams. 

"Huge credit to all involved and to their clubs and coaches for the work they put into these youngsters. I see this work on a weekly basis when coaches are on the lines giving up their time voluntarily and while it's great for me to see girls progress, it must be a massive boost for those coaches to see their hard work come to fruition when players get to play at that level.” 

Over the years we have become familiar with the lack of referees across the country, and for Cronin at the moment he could be doing anything up to six games a weekend.

“There is still such a shortage of referees so I could do four to six games at the weekend. At the moment myself, Mark O’Connell and John Corcoran are trying to cover as many girls' games as possible. While it’s great financially to have so many games, I do have advice to anyone wishing to begin refereeing.

“If you’re interested in taking up refereeing, then take it up for the right reasons. If you’re doing it solely for the money, then you'll be found out quick enough. You have to enjoy it and show interest or you won’t last. Simple as. 

"I thoroughly enjoy it and my daughter Katie and partner Philomena have been brilliant support over the years. They understand the commitment that is needed and thankfully they never moan. Katie enjoys going to games and when I’m not refereeing she'll have me watching games, so it’s great and long may it continue.”

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