Michelle O'Neill

Irish official Michelle O’Neill confirmed for Women’s World Cup

Irish referee Michelle O’Neill has been confirmed as one of the 44 assistant referees appointed for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada this summer.

The FIFA Referees Committee, under the chairmanship of Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce, confirmed the appointment of the officials for the tournament on Friday.

Wexford official O’Neill, 34, is an assistant in the SSE Airtricity League as well as a referee in the FAI Continental Tyres Women’s National League and came through a comprehensive programme to earn her place on the plane to Canada in June.

An initial group of referees and assistant referees from all over the world where whittled down the travelling group after several seminars and tests. The will participate in two seminars: one in Zurich from April 18-24 and in Vancouver ten days before the kick-off of the tournament.

After impressing at the seminar for prospective assistant referees for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Doha, Qatar, last November, O’Neill proved her quality in the practical work with players and integrated exercises, theoretical work including video sessions, group discussions and trivia, plus physical and medical testing.

The Wexford swimming instructor will officiate in a team led by Paula Brady in Malta next week for a UEFA Women’s European Championships Preliminary Round tournament as she continues to prepare for the biggest appointment of her refereeing career.

In July 2012 O’Neill was assistant for the UEFA Women’s U19 Championships Final between Spain and Sweden in Turkey. She started refereeing in the local Wexford leagues in 2008 and is a graduate of the FAI Referee School of Excellence. She became a National League Assistant referee in 2010 and has a FIFA Women’s Assistant Referees Badge since 2011.

“I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited to officiate at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It’s such an honour to be appointment for such a prestigious event,” said O’Neill.

“I can’t say I’m surprised to have made it but I went out to every event I was asked to go to by FIFA and did my best. I tried to give them nothing for them to possibly not pick me. I tried to be as professional as possible. Doha went very well in terms of my levels of fitness and the offside testing.

“It was a great feeling when I received an email on Friday confirming that I was on the panel. I’ll be looking now to keep myself as fit as I can be, stay as sharp as possible in terms of speed work and being mentally prepared. I’ll continue doing the offside analysis and training as hard as I can. I want to stay at the top of my game.”

O’Neill believes her appointment will be a real boost to refereeing in Ireland as she follows Eddie Foley – who officiated at the 1998 World Cup Finals in France – as being just the second Irish official appointed to a FIFA World Cup.

“The referees community in Ireland has been such a support network. They’ve all backed me 100 per cent from the Elite Committee, the ISRS and the Wexford Branch. They’ve been right behind me since my first tournament in the Algarve,” she said.

“I’m the first Irish female referee to get a tournament and only second after Eddie Foley. I work closely with Eddie who is the Assistant Referee’s mentor and I’ve worked with him since I came onto the league panel. We work together and the mentoring and training behind us helps us get as far as we can as officials.

“Eddie has been advising me to keep doing what I’m doing, staying focused and keep proving why I’m there.”

O’Neill will be focusing on her work as an Assistant Referee now as he duties with Continental Tyres Women’s National League where she is a lead referee will shortly be coming to a close for the season.

“The day after I got the news about the Women’s World Cup I assistant was at Limerick FC-St Patrick’s Athletic in Jackman Park,” she added.

“I’ve been doing the line in the Premier Division and that’s been brilliant preparation for the Women’s World Cup. The UEFA qualifiers preliminary round in Malta next week will also help. I’m then heading to Zurich for preparation ahead of the tournament.

“Overall I see this as a major honour for me, my county, the referees here in Ireland and I must mention that my employers at Wexford Swimming Pool and my family have all been fantastic support for me.”.

Issued by: Stephen Finn
Source/Photo: FAI.ie

Take a look at all the Referees and Assistant Referees for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015

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