Top umpire Metchette gets unique Olympic view

While Ireland’s national teams narrowly missed out on qualification to the Olympic Games, Carol Metchette, Colin Hutchinson and Ray O’Connor once again showed the island has a great track record when it comes to umpiring.

Metchette was among the leading women’s whistle-blowers in London, officiating the semi-final between Argentina and Great Britain while also playing a part in the bronze and gold medal matches.

Her second Olympics, the Old Alex club member described the event to The Hook as “the most amazing experience an athlete or official can go through.

“The Games are about athletes performing and I feel very privileged being a part of the Olympic hockey tournament as an umpire.

“It was more than I could have dreamed of when I started umpiring in 2002 after playing for so many years. Although you imagine what it will be like going through the preparations, it doesn’t compare to being in the middle of it and feeling the Olympic buzz in everything that happens.”

Apart from the hockey, Metchette got to experience some of the other Olympic attractions, including both opening and closing ceremonies, Usain Bolt winning the 100m, Andy Murray claiming gold in Wimbledon as well as seeing Chris Hoy triumph in the Velodrome.

Having officiated in Beijing four years ago, she says it was a completely different experience: “It’s hard to compare. Beijing was more spectacular and obviously the culture was very different. But the crowds at the hockey were much bigger in London, even for the 8.30am matches. It made for a much better atmosphere especially in the GB games.

“I have gained a lot more experience over the last four years and that brings more confidence on the pitch. One of the challenges of such a major event is remaining aware of the job at hand.

“Of course the Olympics are the Olympics, but there is a hockey tournament to perform at. My primary goal was to do a great job in the Riverbank Stadium and my preparation was very much focused on that.”

To that end, she was pleased with her performances and was among the shortlist to umpire the final

“The matches were of great and very high intensity. All the matches I umpired were big games including the semi final. It would have been nice but the top umpires in the world are at the Olympics so it’s a tough competition.”

After the semi-finals, Metchette was named the reserve umpire for the final while she was also heavily involved in the bronze medal game, taking up the video umpiring duties.

“The medal games on the final day were very exciting. Umpiring a match is very much a four people performance and the connection between all four is of crucial importance to get it right. Preparation is really the same for every match. Stay calm and focused!

“A video umpire is only available at the top tournaments. We are getting more and more experienced in using this option and it is an automatic part of the tournament and the match preparation.”

This latter role offers a truly unique perspective on the action: “We are in a room high above the pitch, top of the stands. We have three screens; two are divided into four so basically we have nine different angles to look at.

“We watch the match out the window and if there is a referral we move to the screens to look at any angle we think is relevant. We have a TV guy with us to work the screens.

“There is zoom and super slow mo. We are in radio contact with the umpires on the pitch and it all has to be done as quickly as possible and there is pressure to get the decision correct!”

** Ray O’Connor spoke to The Hook this week; an interview with him and his thoughts on the Olympic Games will be posted on the site during the week.

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