Carol Metchette added another huge honour to her collection when she was named the umpire for the European Championships final between the Netherlands and Germany in Monchengladbach in August.
The former Old Alex player has long been one of the world’s best whistle-blowers, going to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Cup in Argentina, and was given her golden whistle for her 100th international on June 24 this year at the Champions Challenge in Dublin.
Officiating at her third Europeans, she told The Hook it is always an honour to be involved at such a high level tournament and says that, given the level of preparation the teams put in, the training for umpires is equally important. She conducted the final in conjunction with Argentine Soledad Iparraguirre (pictured just prior to the final), a tie the Dutch won 3-0.
“I loved umpiring in Monchengladbach,” she said. “Obviously, there is such a lot at stake for the teams with Olympic qualification on offer. Teams train very hard and I think it is an umpire’s responsibility to have a high level of fitness also.
“This includes lots of physical training, also mental training with DVDs of matches, keeping up to date with latest rules/interpretations, going to tther tournaments and practice matches and so on.
Crowds for the final weekend of the competition were close to a capacity of 12,000 in Warsteiner Park, much larger than the vast majority of hockey events.
But, having umpired in the Olympic arena, Metchette says that rather than getting nervous before such ties, they are moments to savour.
“I enjoy the challenge of umpiring the top players especially in front of a big crowd. It really gets the adrenalin going!
“I enjoyed the final very much, it was very special to be selected to umpire it. It often can be hard to fully appreciate the skill on the pitch as you have to look out for lots of things going on and off the ball.
“You need to concentrate for the whole game, one wrong decision can be crucial. The other umpire and I would have a good pre-match chat about what we are looking for, areas of the pitch where we can help each other and use the radios.
“It was quite a tight game, the teams know each other so well. There was not as much flow to it as I hoped but there was a great atmosphere in front of a packed stadium all looking for a home win!”
Both Irish men’s and women’s sides have taken a break from hockey in the wake of a busy summer. For Metchette, the break is quite short, though, as she prepares for a potential second Olympics.
“I’ve had a busy year with lots of tournaments so the plan at the moment is to take a few weeks off and introduce myself to my family again! Not too long though as I’m going to the Pan American games in Mexico in October.
“I am on a ‘Road To London’ panel of 25 umpires at the moment. It will have to be cut down to 15 for the Olympics. We are graded at every tournament we go to, have to send in fitness/preperation reports regularly.
“All umpires on this panel will go to an OCQ [Olympic qualifier] or the Champions Trophy. I am going to the CT in Argentina in January so no OCQ for me. It would be amazing to be selected; who knows….fingers crossed!!”