THE local Cork soccer community was saddened to hear of the recent death of the much loved and respected former Cork Branch ISRS founder member Owen McCarthy.

Refereeing great Owen McCarthy is laid to rest (

Owen McCarthy, left, pictured with Frank Casey at a presentation at the Cork Branch of the ISRS’s 40th anniversary at the Imperial Hotel, to accompany obituary piece. (pic: Finbarr Buckley)

After playing with Morton Ville with his brother Bobby, Owen took up refereeing and became a founder member of the Cork Branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society in 1960 and a staunch member for many years afterwards. 

He quickly progressed through local football to the League of Ireland (1962) and FIFA panels (1964). His colleagues in the sixties would have included his great friends Sammy Spillane and Sylvestor Greoger along with Derry Barrett, Eddie Mullins, Timmy Kelly (father of Pat), Dan Horgan, Joe O’Riordan, Frank Casey, Bobby Duggan, Paddy Horgan, Nickey Hayes, and Nedser Cotter.

He and Sylvie Greogor had the honour of being assistant referees to Sam Spillane, (only the second Corkonian to referee the blue ribbon showpiece of Ireland’s calendar) in the FAI Cup Final between winners Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne at Dalymount Park on Sunday, April 28th 1962.

He would later take charge of the 1968 decider himself between cup holders Shamrock and league champions Waterford, a match he described as the most memorable in his career.

In Europe he was an assistant to Sammy in the World Cup qualifier between Holland and Albania at the Feynoord Stadium in Rotterdam on May 24th 1964 and the ’64/65 European Cup tie between Scottish side Dunfermline Athletic (4) and Orgryte from Sweden (2).

He accompanied the greats of Irish refereeing in the fields of Europe, namely, Eddie Mullins, Derry Barrett, Bobby Duggan, Billy O’Neill, and Jack (PIP) Meighan, the 1970/71 European Cup tie second round, first leg, between eventual winners Ajax and FC Basle, among one of his many highlights.

Owen was appointed Senior Referee Observer for Munster following his retirement in ’72 and was responsible for recruiting, educating and coaching the next great generation of referees in Cork and indeed Munster which included Kevin O’Sullivan, Noel and Barry Kearney, Gerry Mc Grath, Pat Kelly, John Spillane, Sean Ware and Sean Manley to name a few.

Some of those who followed in his footsteps later became distinguished FIFA Officials. 

Thanks to his personality, patience, perseverance, and understanding as well as the generous giving of his devoted time, he will always be remembered as a true pioneer in Irish football and one of the greats in Cork refereeing. 

Ar Dheis Dé a raibh a anam.