While the job of a referee can often be a thankless one, members of the Irish Soccer Referees Society Wexford Branch were awarded a civic reception at the Irish National Heritage Park by the Wexford Borough District, to mark 50 years since the groups inception.
Members of the group were joined by members of the Wexford League as Chairman of the group Seamus Ryan accepted a presentation from Mayor of Wexford Tony Dempsey.
The Wexford branch was first formed back in 1969 when a group of interested individuals decided to come together to establish a referee's panel. The original founders consisted of Stan Kelly, Donal Sadler, Joe Moloney and the late Nick Delaney, John Lappin, Tony Busher, Tommy Butler and Richard Kelly.
It took just a year for the group to be accepted into the Irish Soccer Referees Society and the very first branch meeting was held in the old CYMS hall in Wexford in September of 1970, at which the late John Lappin was elected as the very first Chairman with Nick Delaney as Secretary/Treasurer.
Since then, the branch has gone from strength to strength and now contains a membership of 62 referees who operate at all levels of the game, including Sean Grant and Brian Fenlon who officiate in the Airtricity League and Michelle O'Neill who was also present and was honoured by Mayor Dempsey, who was a former teacher of hers at Enniscorthy Vocational College
Michelle has previously officiated at the Women's European Championships and last year she took charge of the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup Final between Japan and Spain in France. In June she is to fly to France again for the Women's World Cup where she is one of 48 assistant refs from across the globe who will run the line at the tournament.
'Basically this was our way of thanking the referees for the contribution they make to the sport locally,' said Mayor Dempsey. 'They are a big part of developing the game, which plays a big part of developing young people in the community in particular.'