Referees' Feature - Sean O' Connor - Part 4

Sean’s still going strong with his refereeing

Sean O ConnorSean O’Connor is now 63 and rightly considered to still be going strong as a referee in the Manderwood Pembrokeshire Football League, despite getting towards a long association in football.
He is held in high regard by players and officials alike from clubs around the county after being a terrific central defender for Fishguard Sports and Goodwick United when both were in the top four teams in the county – and he has shown the same commitment to his refereeing over almost two decades.
He is renowned for his calm and unfussy approach to his refereeing and during that time he has officiated at every divisional cup final, other than Division Four, and been in charge of most of the junior competition finals.

Reffing the Senior Cup was a major highlight . . .

He ran the line for Dai Badger in the 2010-11 Senior Cup Final but the undoubted highlight came when he reffed the 2012-13 Final where Johnston beat the now-defunct West Dragons by 3-2 in a tense clash where The Tigers raced into a 3-0 lead but The Dragons fought back with two good goals and there might have been extra time but they hit the bar late on.
“I really enjoyed a special day,” Sean told us, “including the pre-match brunch where a large number of my fellow referees turned up to give support.
“I had Angus Scourfield and Adrian Harries as my assistants, with Kevin Milich as fourth official – and the game flew by since it was so fast and competitive.”
Sean also officiated in the West Wales Junior Cup Final at under 13 level at Stebonheath Park, Llanelli where a strong Clydach junior side won by 6-0

Highs and lows as a player at St Mary’s Field and Phoenix Park . . .

As a player with Fishguard Sports he played in a West Wales Cup Final and still recalls the disappointment of the defeat.

“We lost 1-0 to Swansea side North End in the 1986 Final at The Vetch Field in Swansea, with John Luke as manager and players of the calibre of RV Jones, Brian Kinsella, Bernie Armstrong and Derek Burgess.
“When I moved to Goodwick in 1987/88 we made it to the Senior Cup Final, with Pedr McMullen as referee, and after a bit of a scare we beat Milford Athletic in a reply at London Road (home of Pembroke Borough) after a 1-1 draw at Marble Hall (Milford United).
“We started out as favourites but they pushed us all the way in the first match and we were mightily relieved to win the replay 2-0 thanks to goals from Steve Summers and Stuart Wilson as goalkeeper Duggie Bowen was captain and other useful players were Brian Morris and Steve Hughes.”

. . . And as manager of Goodwick United too!

Then Sean eventually became joint manager with Pob O’Brien and they were able to celebrate winning the division one title in 1994 when they beat Monkton Swifts by 1-0 in the final match.

“The Swifts had won 12 matches in a row in a dramatic late surge to the season so they only needed a draw whilst we had to win. The ground was packed out and a rare goal from Brian Morris meant we claimed the title.”
But there was more disappointment in the West Wales Cup as they lost in the semi-finals in 1996 and 97 respectively to Ragged School and West End, both at Carmarthen – but finally reached the final against Mountain Dew at The Vetch Field, after beating West End in a penalty shoot-out.

“But we lost by the only goal of the match and it was another night of disappointment for us all because we had chances to win it!”
“Between 1996 and 2000 we reached three senior cup finals, losing to Merlins Bridge in 1996 and a strong Pennar Robins team in 1997. But it became third  time lucky however when in the 98/99 season against all the odds Goodwick United beat a strong Hakin United team, by 3-2 to secure our first senior cup for 11 years.”

Cricket days - Sean O ConnorSean loved his cricketing days too

Outside of his football, Sean was also a useful all-rounder with Fishguard CC as a canny medium pace bowler who had several five-wicket hauls - and he also had a top score of 106 not out on the first day of a season when we played at Pill Parks, Llangwm.
Other highlights included reaching the semi-final of the Harrison-Allen Bowl in another campaign before losing out to Pembroke – after we had caused an upset by beating Lawrenny and then causing one of the major shocks ever as we also dumped hot favourites Carew out as well.
“I also played for our second XI as real underdogs when we reached the final of the Alec Colley Cup when we were then playing in the old division six. We lost but it was a great day for the club and it was a really sad day when the club ceased to exist – but we hope to be back playing cricket again next season at the Fishguard Sports football ground and I will help in any way I can.”

Refereed so many cup finals

Back on the football front, Sean would say that he really enjoyed his many years as a player and manager but eventually decided that it was time to put something back into the game as he took up the whistle and adapted to his new role straight away.
In the intervening years he has reffed at every level in Pembrokeshire and as well as his Senior Cup highlight he has also taken charge of a range of other finals.

These include the second division cup, where Clarbeston Road beat Monkton Swifts by 3-2 in the 2015/16 season and the third division cup in 2011/12, when Pennar Robins and St Clears drew 1-1 but The Robins won 7-6 in a tense penalty shoot-out.
Then there was the fifth division cup in 2008/09, where the newly-formed West Dragons beat Tenby 2nds 6-1, plus the Jubilee Cup in 2011/12, when Hakin United beat Tenby. Throw in a couple of junior finals and it is easy to see how well-thought of Sean has been.

As well as this, Sean was in the middle for four Senior Cup semi-finals between 2014 and 2019.
Outside of these memorable moments, Sean has always been committed to the Eddie Merry and John Bailey Cup Finals, held respectively at Fishguard Sports and Goodwick United playing fields, helping out as referee or assistant ref for a number of years.

And finally . . .

Off the field, Sean has also been heavily involved in the Pembrokeshire Referees’ Society and was honoured with the chairmanship for three years – and was vice chairman to Jonathan Twigg during the centenary year, when top referee Mike Dean was guest of honour at a special dinner.
So how long will he continue to officiate at matches is the question we felt obliged to as Sean O’Connor and his answer was immediate:
“I still love being involved and will c carry on for as long as I am enjoying it – and as long as I feel as fit as I do now I will certainly hope to be in the middle when it becomes time for me to collect my pension book!”