Annerville award winner Bily O'Donoghue with his familiy and friends at the Annerville award ceremony
Clonmel football referee Billy O'Donoghue was asarded an Annerville asward by the United Sports Panel at a ceremony in Clonmel.
He was awarded the Jimmy Cooney Lifetime Achievement Award at the function held at the Talbot Hotel in Clonmel.
Billy O’Donoghue’s love and passion for being the man in the middle burns so brightly and has endured for such a long time that, at 78 years of age, he is still refereeing local soccer matches at adult (junior) and underage level, some 35 years after he took charge of his first match.
Billy started refereeing around the mid 1980s to help the TSDL finish the season when a referees’ dispute broke out. He officially took charge of his first match on September 13 1987, a league game in Monard between St Nicholas and St John’s of Carrick-on-Suir. He has never looked back since then.
“I was 45 when I started,” he says.
“I didn’t have any great ambitions to be a referee. I said if I get five years out of this it’ll be magic. I immediately liked it, even though the first three months is the most difficult time for a referee; you have to learn how to deal with people, and you meet the most aggressive people and the nicest people.”
During his long career Billy has had the honour of being the linesman (or assistant referee) at two Munster Junior Cup finals and one FAI Junior Cup semi-final.
However, it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. He has been physically threatened and players have thrown punches at him. During one match in Kilmanahan, near Clonmel, he was chased out of the pitch by an angry spectator, only returning to finish the game once the man had been calmed down by other supporters.
On another occasion a player pulled a corner flag out of the ground and threatened to strike him with it.
However, even those hair-raising incidents haven’t dampened his enthusiasm, and it comes as no surprise when he openly admits that he loves refereeing.
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