'Noel O’Donnell has left a strong, powerful and positive imprint on many'
THE HEAD of Refereeing at the Irish Football Association Mr Trevor Moutray led the heart-warming tributes paid to well respected North West referee Noel O’Donnell who sadly passed away on Wednesday.
Mr Moutray said Noel left a lasting ‘powerful and positive’ imprint on those he met and described him as an ‘educator’ and ‘developer’ of match officials.
“Sad news emerging from the North West Referees Association this evening, following the passing of ex-referee and recent referee observer colleague Noel O’Donnell,” began a tribute from Mr Moutray.
“I only got to know Noel after joining the IFA’s Referee Department in July 2018. From that point and up until illness meant that Noel had to step down from grassroots observing.
“I enjoyed frequent exchanges with Noel and also met him when we had observer training nights. Once I started to read Noel’s match observation reports, I was immediately struck by his writing eloquence and the way in which he was able to describe various match incidents. Never the hatchet, always the feather.
“Clearly Noel brought all his knowledge and professional expertise gained from working in the Probation Service to his match observation duties - and aren’t the many match officials who benefited from Noel’s expertise so much the better for having met and worked with him.
“ Very much the educator and developer of match officials, which is evidenced by the number of glowing tributes to Noel from those match officials who Noel touched and positively influenced.
“ At times like this, we often reminisce and recall stories and think of a person’s legacy. Noel O’Donnell has left a strong, powerful and positive imprint to many. And in offering condolences to Noel’s family and friends, they should all know that there are many blowing a whistle today and making progress in their refereeing careers because Noel was there at the start of individual journeys to help shape and craft rawness and inexperience of many and point it in the right direction.
“Thank you Noel O’Donnell for your service to refereeing, both on and off the field of play.”
Noel officiated at thousands of matches over the past 30 years including in the Derry & District FA., the Saturday Morning League and the popular Foyle Cup tournament.
A spokesperson for the North West Saturday Morning League said there was ‘great sadness’ at Noel’s death.
“Noel O’Donnell was a very experienced referee who treated players with respect and that was returned to him in the 1000s of games in which he officiated.
“The loss to his family is immeasurable and to the football fraternity it is immense. May you Rest in Peace. One of life’s true gentlemen.”
Tributes were also paid to Noel by a spokesperson for the D&D who described him as ‘a very popular figure throughout local football’.
“Everyone associated with the D&D league would like to offer their sincere condolences to the family of Noel O’Donnell who sadly passed away following a lengthy illness. Noel was one of the most respected referees in the North West and loyally served as a referee in the league for over 30 years.
"A very popular figure throughout local football Noel will be a huge loss to the referee family, to Lisahally FC and most importantly the O’Donnell family and many friends. Our thoughts are with you all at this very sad time.”
Noel's funeral will take place from his family home in Gortmore Place, Strathfoyle on Saturday at 10.30 a.m. for 11 a.m. Requiem Mass in St Oliver Plunkett's Church.
May he rest in peace.