Cheshire referee Oliver Nolan was selected to represent Cheshire FA at the 2018 Northern Ireland Super Cup.
We caught up with Oliver to talk about his experience.
The first day was all about travelling and breaking the ice. Upon landing in Belfast, I met up with 3 of the other lads I would be officiating with through the week (James, Dan and Liam). From there, we travelled to our accommodation and settled in for what was sure to be an amazing week ahead.
Here we met Alistair, Niall and our coaches Steve and Ash. During the first evening we attended the opening friendly game and got to know each other a little better. The friendly was between Man Utd and Celtic U19’s, with a large crowd at Coleraine FC watching.
I am sure the other lads would agree, the atmosphere was vibrant, there was a feeling of excitement around the tournament starting and the local people really did have a buzz when they spoke about the NI Super Cup.
On the first full day we had agreed (why I am not sure) to be put through our paces and complete a fitness session in the morning! So, we were up early and out to get loose and ready for the week ahead. We then returned to the house and completed with Lee Tavinder from the Irish FA a development session on ‘What the Game Expects’. This was followed by a much more enjoyable carvery at the local golf club, which was finished off with some rather delicious deserts! Later in the evening we then attended the opening ceremony.
We began near the town hall in Coleraine, walking through the town center and to Coleraine FC. The streets were lined with thousands of locals, tourists, families and friends, all in support of the tournament.
I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people who had such enthusiasm for the tournament beginning. We were greeted at Coleraine FC by a full crowd. Here we witnessed traditional performances such as the Haka and Mexican dancing, showing off the contrast in cultures attending the tournament. The tournament had officially begun.
Come the first morning meeting we were all itching to get our first fixtures. Each morning we were allocated either one middle, or two games as assistant. My games were as follows -
Day 1 – Club America (Mexico)vs County Tyrone (Northern Ireland) (Assistant), GPS (USA) vs Cherry Orchard (Rep. of Ireland) (Assistant)
Day 2 – Northern Ireland Select XI vs Audax (Brazil) (Referee)
Day 3 – Iquique (Chile)vs County Down (Northern Ireland) (Referee)
Day 4 – Plymouth Argyle vs Charlton Athletic (Assistant), County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) vs Otago (New Zealand) (Assistant)
Day 5 – Finals day (Salver Cup final U18) County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) vs Iquique (Chile)
Each game presented new challenges and gave me new things to develop as the week went on. A number of things we focused on were positioning, body language, communication, gauging of the tempo of the game, what the game expects and teamwork with officials who have a different approach.
With there being language barriers and differences in expectation from the international clubs, it really was a challenge to please all parties. The coaches were excellent and provided in depth analysis of our performances with a detailed de-brief straight after the game. We would then discuss and share experiences from throughout the day and learn from each other in an open and honest environment. I am extremely grateful and privileged to have had this amazing opportunity.
The experience from start to finish was one I will never forget, learning throughout the whole duration of the trip. I have made friends from all areas of the country and gained a greater understanding of what it takes to get to the next level.
I feel the experience has helped my refereeing already and I hope the end result will be promotion to Level 3 come the end of the marking season.
For anyone who wants to achieve and strive for promotion, this tournament should provide a great incentive for you to be the best referee you can possibly be.