Alan Kelly on "breaking the glass ceiling" to referee in Europe and the US

The former League of Ireland referee now officiates over in the MLS

BY Cian Roche 21:42 Wednesday 22 February 2017, 21:42 22 Feb 2017

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farme

What began as a part-time passion has led to America for one Irish referee.

A former leisure centre manager for a hotel in Cork, Alan Kelly trained full time to get himself up to a necessary level of fitness to last an entire game. He officiated in League of Ireland games on the weekend to accompany his professional job. All of that and as he rightly points out: "Family is full time job as well."

Rising through the ranks of UEFA and becoming skilled at a much higher level resulted in him getting the opportunity to be part of big European nights.

"It was really difficult to get to the level that we had gotten to in the Champions League because, from an Irish point of view, we didn't have a referee team in the competition," he said on Wednesday night's Off The Ball. "Once we broke into that it was as if we broke through the glass ceiling.

"It was difficult to get there because we're not perceived to be the best footballing nation, certainly not the biggest footballing league."

Now working within the MLS, Kelly highlights some of the professional differences in the US compared to Europe.

"I'm training on a daily basis, so it doesn't feel like a holiday in any way shape or form. 

"Our sports science department lets us away with absolutely nothing. Every morning we log in with our heart rate and all that kind of stuff. Our training is all GPS orientated. We have to upload every session and if we don't we're in trouble.

"It's like a big brother scenario where every single day is monitored, whether it's in-season or off-season. We used to train quite strenuously when I was in the League of Ireland and in Europe. In the MLS, there's a sports science department where everything is covered.

"It's a step up in terms of the professional aspect, that's for sure."

Despite the passion, the decision to move his family away from Ireland to where they now reside south of Boston was certainly a big one.

"[Going to America] wasn't something that I had put any thought into really. I had been watching MLS for a a couple of years before I had gone over, but I was really contented with League of Ireland football and European football. 

"It just got to the point where I just needed another challenge and an opportunity presented itself. I reckoned it probably wouldn't come around again so lets sample something that's new. It wasn't out of necessity or anything like that. It was something that just cam about and I said lets give it a go."

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