HE'S been there and done that as a soccer player and a coach.
But now he wants to do it as a referee.
Paul Bowdren recently took up refereeing, a passion of his for a long time and now he is relishing the opportunity to stay involved in the game which has given him so much joy over the years.
Widely respected across the country in the soccer circles, the Shanakiel man made the decision to make the transition from manager to official in order to spend more time with his family and watch his boys play.
While many say he could have coached at a higher level such was his success at youths, he himself has no regrets and loved every role he has had to date. Bowdren speaks highly of those who dedicated their time to doing their coaching badges but believes it was too time-consuming for him.
Now being able to juggle refereeing and watching his sons' games, is the perfect mix.
“I can honestly say I’ve loved every role I’ve had in football, whether it was playing, coaching and now refereeing, I think I always found the right balance.
“Refereeing was something that was always of an interest to me even as a player and only for the fact I was offered a fabulous opportunity to coach the youths in Cork City, I probably would have started refereeing earlier. Thankfully things worked out the way they did though as I enjoyed over 20 years of coaching.
"I worked with some great people such as Stuart Ashton, Brendan O’Sullivan, Liam Murphy, Paul Dunton and Alan Mooney and I also got to coach some great players whom all of the above are friends for life.
“After City I spent some time with Douglas Hall and again some great people at the club.
“I decided to give refereeing a go when things were quiet at local level during covid. I am delighted I did as really enjoying it so far.
“While I don’t regret a minute of coaching, there is so much time and commitment involved so the fact I wanted to spend more time watching my sons play, I thought I’d have more of an opportunity as a referee and thankfully I am able to work around their games.
"I have three sons I’m very proud of.
"Kenneth is studying medicine, Conor plays with UCC seniors while Darragh plays with Blarney U17 but will be joining Cobh Ramblers for the upcoming season. So throughout the years my wife Patricia and my sons have always being so supportive of my involvement in the game I’m happy now to be able to give them more time.”
So how was the transition from manager to referring?
“Refereeing is different in so many ways. Definitely a little less preparation, less tense and pressure.
"Also less time involved which is a huge one for me. I am currently refereeing in the youths league and it’s great to see the talent on display.
"But more so, to see the enjoyment from the players. At times you might miss that in the elite level as there’s so much pressure on players, you’re not always going to see a lot of enjoyment from every player.”
With regard to the elite level, it is unfortunate that he is no longer passing on his knowledge of the game. I’m sure many would like to see him involved in the current first team set-up at City.
It's been quite a journey for him through the game to date.
“Paul was involved in my very first game at LOI and he remained part of my entire journey at that level,” said Cork City legend Declan Daly.
"Paul was playing with Cork City when I made my debut with Limerick at Flower Lodge. We were marking each other and he was obviously too good for me because I got booked," laughs Daly.
"So my first booking in League of Ireland was against Paul. From there we got to know each other really well then when we played with City.
"He’s a class guy. Attitude and work-rate was always spot on and his knowledge of the game was always superb.”
Sligo Rovers' Garry Buckley captained a City youth side managed by Bowdren.
“If I had to describe him in two words it would be respect and win,” said Buckley. "Not only did I and everyone else have massive respect for him but he too gave it back in return.
"Treated every player with the same respect. You’d always hear of good cop bad cop but he did both.
"He always knew what each player needed but most importantly he was a winner. He never settled for second place.”
Stuart Ashton was another man who worked closely alongside Bowdren.
“I worked with Paul for nearly 20 years where we enjoyed a lot of success. He's a complete gentleman who would give every one his time and not think twice about it.
"His knowledge of the game gave him the respect of the players and I am delighted to see him still involved in the game which I know he will excel.”