THE Irish Soccer Referees Society Cork Branch held their annual awards in the Kiln Brewery.
An event that was postponed over two weeks ago due to the sad passing of referee observer Brian O’Regan.
While it was difficult to celebrate such an event, Brian and his family’s thoughts were on everyone’s minds, and I caught up with his close friend Pat Kelly who here, tells us of the huge loss O’Regan’s death has brought to the footballing circle across the country.
“Brian’s passing is a huge loss to everyone involved in the game and our thoughts at this very sad and difficult time are with his children Sarah and James, and his extended family,” said Kelly.
“Last Saturday Brian’s son James made the decision to do the referee's beginners course in Turner's Cross and I’m sure his dad was beaming down on him throughout.
“Brian's refereeing career began in the Cork Schoolboys League in 1985 just after he got married to his beloved Josephine. He quickly moved through the local Business League, AUL League and on to the Munster Senior League.
"He was then promoted to the League of Ireland panel, first as a linesman now known as assistant referee. He went on to referee in the League of Ireland for six years but had to retire through injury in 2000.
"He was appointed as a local referee observer in 2001 and became a League of Ireland observer one year later. He was the observer for the FAI final between Sporting Fingal and Sligo Rovers in 2009, one of his biggest achievements.
“Brian was also appointed as referee coordinator for schools football and continued this up to his untimely passing in December of this year. Brian was very dedicated to this voluntary role and every school coach was full of praise for his contribution to schools football over the past 15 years. His professional approach to his task of appointing referees to every school match played in the city and county was second to none.
“As schools coordinator, school coaches would ring or text him on a daily basis to appoint referees for matches which he spent a lot of time on a voluntary basis during the week to ensure that all matches were staffed. I have stepped in during Brian's illness at his request to fulfil his duties and I will continue to fill this role in the future.”
He grew up in Old Market Place in the northside. He was one of seven, four Boys and three girls. He had a good life and was a great family man. Losing his wife a decade ago was tough for Brian and the kids but he showed his true character as he continued to be strong for his kids. This mental strength lasted right up until his final day.
To see so many people from so many different clubs turn up at his removal and funeral to pay tribute must have helped ease the pain his family are no doubt suffering since his very sad passing over two weeks ago.
The massive gathering at Coughlans Funeral home and St Joseph’s church proved the love and huge loss as well as massive respect the many people had for Brian.
One thing evident from listening to the stories told by his friends is that no matter what or how much he loved his soccer nothing came before his family, his late wife Josephine, his children Sarah and James. Many clubs and organisations paid tribute to Brian.
The FAI released a statement paying tribute.
“The FAI Is deeply saddened to learn of the death in Cork of Brian O’Regan, former National League referee and observer at elite and grassroots level.
"Our thoughts are with Brian's family and friends. May he rest in peace."
The MFA also paid tribute to Brian in a social media post.
"Brian was a gentleman who gave fantastic service to our game. Condolences to the O’Regan Family. May he rest in peace."
UCC soccer, with whom Brian was instrumental in organising referees for their games also paid a tribute.
“Condolences to Brian’s family. All at UCC soccer are shocked to hear this, Brian would organise referees for all our third level games.”
RIP Brian. You were an absolute gent and will be sorely missed by all who knew you.