Cork referee Pat Kelly relays his career in the middle in a new book

He took charge of his first game in 1970 when a referee didn't turn up for a match
Cork referee Pat Kelly relays his career in the middle in a new book

Before the 1976 AOH Cup final officials Edmund Fitzgerald, Pat Kelly and Finbarr O’Sullivan look on as Edward Healy (St Mary’s) and Christy Lynch (Castleview) shake hands.

IT happened by chance.

In 1970 a 19-year-old boy from 98 Street took up the whistle for the first time when a referee failed to show up in Ballyphehane Park for a game.

He was persuaded to officiate the game and it was from there his love for refereeing began.

Refereeing that game changed his life and put him on a pathway that he didn’t intend to travel but one which he has loved and one from which he has made a superb career, accumulating some fantastic memories along the way.

Fifty-two years on we have the opportunity to experience some of those memories after Pat Kelly decided to write a book which will be launched next week in the Rochestown Park Hotel, with all proceeds from the sale going to three charities that are close to his heart.

It happened by chance is a fantastic read about a wonderful man’s journey in life, a man has given so much to the Beautiful Game.


The popular former referee enjoyed a fabulous career as a referee and later as an observer and here he tells us about his reasons for writing a book that reveals the true stories about his wonderful career.

“It wasn’t always my intention to write a book, but a prompt from former Cork City player Pat Duggan and his father Paddy, encouraged me to write down all my stories and put them in a book and that’s exactly what I have done,” Kelly said.

“The inspiration for me to write it, after some thought, was that I was retired and felt I had more time on my hands. I felt that after a lifetime involved in the game I had a good few stories to share and what better place to put them than in a book to document all I had experienced.

“The stories in the book all came from memory but also from many visits to the city library over the past few years to clarify dates of various matches.

“It was great to re-live some great memories. While working hard recalling information and putting it all down on paper, Covid then hit and the world came to a standstill, as did the book.

“Then, there came a time in April 2020, a time that I felt sitting around waiting for the world to kickstart itself back into life wasn’t the way to go, I started getting back to the book which was a good way to fill time and it kept me occupied.

 Bobby O' Donovan, Cobh Ramblers; Pat Mulcahy and Pat Kelly attending the AUL awards in 2019. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Bobby O' Donovan, Cobh Ramblers; Pat Mulcahy and Pat Kelly attending the AUL awards in 2019. Picture: Larry Cummins.

“I was on my daily walks and thoughts and stories came to mind which were quickly jotted down on my phone and I expanded the story when I returned home.

“There were plenty of times when I began to second-guess myself in terms of whether or not it was a good idea or not, so it became a bit stop/start.

“Over time I probably went through six to eight drafts, so all in all it took a few years to complete. The stories, all of which are true and came from memory, encompass all grades of football both male and female.

Some funny stories and others not so funny but all part of the journey.

“Included in the book are photos from the early days to the present. There were lots more I could have included, so amazing were the memories along the way, but I hope the ones that I have chosen will reveal just how great a life football has given me.

“All proceeds from the sale of the book are shared between three local charities — Marymount Hospice, Mercy Hospital, and Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, and I would be very grateful for the support.

“I am so thankful to all of the sponsors for the generous support and to the organising committee of Plunkett Carter, Gerry Desmond, and Fergus McDaid for their time, commitment and dedication over the past few years.

“The book wouldn’t have been possible only for the aforementioned guys, thank you to all.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130


Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here


Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more