Referee William O'Neill bio

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At the time of the European Champions Cup Semi Final between PSV and Real Madrid.
© Mieke Byrne
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1956 - 1973


William Augustus O'Neill's career as a FIFA referee began in 1956 and ended in 1973 when at the age of 44, he retired completely from refereeing. Prior to becoming a referee he had played football as an amateur. He has even been offered terms with an Irish Club but when he recovered after suffering a bad break to his leg during a match he no longer had the heart to be a player.

His last game was the FAI (Republic of Ireland) Cup Final between Cork Hibernians and Shelbourn FC. The match ended in a draw and was replayed 7 days later in Cork, the first Cup Final ever to have been held outside the capital.

Wembley & Barca
In 1966 William O'Neill was appointed stand-by referee for the 1966 World Cup, but he was never called upon. He remains the only Irish referee (ROI) to have ever refereed at Wembley (in 1963). During the Mini World Cup in Barcelona in 1972, he was merited with the highest score but was not allowed to referee the final because he was considered to be English (!) and England were playing in the final.

There were several European Cup games which he refereed in the UK. In Edinburgh and Liverpool and he was in Sunderland for England B v France B around the same period. He withdrew from the 'panel' of referees listed for selection for the Mexico World Cup Finals in 1970 because of an appointment within his company which also involved relocation for the whole family to another city.

Considering that O'Neill was a full time insurance official who refereed in his 'spare' time, his career was commendable. After 1973 he was instrumental in coaching several referees to reach the same standard as he did so early in his career.
Biography source: Mieke Byrne

From our reporter: Archie Rogers