A local referee, who is one of the youngest in Northern Ireland, has been selected to take part in an exchange programme with the Liverpool County FA.
Shane McGonigle is just 19, and as been a qualified official for 18 months.
The Coleraine lad, who studies Sports Coaching and Fitness at NRC, will join two other local officials for the trip to Liverpool later this month.
Speaking to Times Sport this week, Shane said he got into refereeing thanks to Tony Young.
“Well, to be honest I wasn’t good enough at football, so I decided that refereeing would be the next best thing.
“I spoke to Tony about it and I haven’t looked back, ” said the teenager who also took part in last year’s Milk Cup.
Shane, who is qualified to take charge as a referee in the Reserve League and run the line at Championship level, says that often it’s taking charge at junior matches this is most difficult.
“You can get a lot of stick from parents when you are doing little junior games, people are just so passionate,” he said.
Shane, who is an Arsenal fan, is looking forward to the Liverpool programme: “It will be a great experience for the three of us.
“ I am really looking forward to it.
“Officials from Liverpool will then make the trip over to Northern Ireland for the second part of the exchange,” explained Shane.
This year the Irish Football Association are seeking to recruit around 100 officials.
Refereeing is a job that many wouldn’t champion, but Shane is passionate about his role.
“I am really enjoying it.
“Obviously you have a lot to listen to at times, but that just comes with the job.
“I can remember the first match I took charge of between two local teams, it was tough, but you learn to take it.”
Referee Manager Lee Tavinder explains what the IFA are looking for. “We are looking for new officials of all ages that have a commitment to our local game. Whether a referees’ ambition is to referee in Europe or to officiate at an Amateur League Cup Final, we are keen to hear from them.
“They must be willing to complete a 12-hour beginners course, pass an exam and basic fitness test and complete six games under the guidance of a mentor.
“That’s when the hard work starts, and we’d hope every new referee would develop by attending meetings, keeping themselves fit and committing themselves fully to every game they have.”