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04th Jun 2023

“Lads, ye should be ashamed of your lives the way ye carried on today.” – Cawley recalls the only game he ever reffed

Niall McIntyre

Brought to you by William Hill.

Alan Cawley reffed one match and he said to himself shortly afterwards that he’ll never ref another. 

Having just retired from professional football, and as he weighed up what to do next, the Sligo native decided to pick up the whistle. His dad was reffing games back home and that gave him the shove he needed.

But Cawley’s was a torrid experience. And it makes him appreciate the referees of the League of Ireland who, recently, have been getting plenty of criticism.

Cawley took up the story on this week’s House of Football podcast.

“I did the course over a weekend, and got the qualification to go out and referee at underage standard – maybe adults or whatever,” says Cawley.

“So he says to me we’ll start you off really light, with an over 35s match so I thought grand, no problem.

“ I was allocated this game on a Saturday afternoon at half two. Arrived down to the ground. A member from both sides greeted me, ‘aw lovely to see you, there’s your dressing room.’ They couldn’t have been any nicer – the home fella and the away fella. So I was thinking yes, all good.

“This was a whole new experience for me. Everything was new.

“If anyone was to see this, I didn’t really tell anyone because it was my dad that was pushing me.

“Because I had just finished playing quite young and he was like, ‘well why don’t you do it?’ You know the game, you’ve plenty to offer, go out and do it. Because I was at a bit of a loss as to what I was going to do. This was before the media stuff.

“So did this match. The two fellas greeted me so well. Went out onto the pitch, ready to start. Within seconds, the two fellas who were nice as pie in the car park, were rolling around in a headlock. I’m not joking.

“So I pull up and I’m like ‘ye can’t be carrying on like this, maybe a yellow card each.’

“The game carried on. One team hammered the other 6-1. Every decision was questioned – I mean everything. No matter what you did. Even clear as day throw-ins, there were lads still claiming it was my ball.

“So five minutes to go, the team that were winning were defending and this winger was running down the pitch. This fella lifts him out of it, I mean lifts him – straight red all day so I go over with the red – ‘What do you mean straight red!!? How’ Going bananas in my face.

“And I’m like he’s after booting him, come on lads. So I blow the whistle straight away. I want out of there.

“So then the manager makes a beeline for me, running on, referee, ‘how could you give a red for that it’s a joke!’

“‘Are you for real?’ I said. ‘Yeah, but we’re playing in the cup final next week and he’ll be suspended. What are you putting in the report?’ I said ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll put in the report. That he’s after booting him!”

“So we’re walking off the pitch – And I actually said to the lads ‘I says lads, ye should be ashamed of yer lives the way ye carried on today.’ Honestly, the sun’s splitting the rocks, a beautiful Saturday, ye should be delighted to be kicking around – but all ye did was whinge and moan and bicker and cry.”

“Went home, got the cards, the whistle, into the fire – never, ever again.”

Listen to the full show here.

You can listen to the full show below.

Or watch it here:

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