Abi Byrne enjoys experience of refereeing SSE Women's FA Cup final at Wembley
Mildenhall official Abi Byrne said ‘the whole experience was what dreams are made of’ after refereeing the SSE Women’s FA Cup final, writes Nick Garnham.
Byrne gave an assured performance along with her fellow officials in Saturday’s showpiece occasion at Wembley Stadium.
Three second-half goals saw hot favourites Manchester City defeat West Ham United 3-0 in front of 43,264 spectators, which was just short of last season’s competition record of 45,423.
Byrne, who recently celebrated her 27th birthday, said: “The weekend definitely lived up to expectations. The whole experience was what dreams are made of.
“A special moment for me was seeing my family in the Royal Box waving to me at the end of the game. Once the game had gone well, that's when I could really enjoy the occasion.
“It’s been a weekend I’ll remember forever! When I started refereeing eight years ago I never thought I would lead the teams out in the FA Women’s Cup Final.
“The number of good luck messages from refereeing colleagues and local clubs was overwhelming. It showed to me the support network in football is fantastic, and officials really are appreciated by the clubs.”
Abi, who was an assistant referee at the final in 2017, continued: “Being an assistant two years before helped me massively! I knew what to expect in the build up to the game, and I wasn't as nervous waiting in the tunnel before the game as I was two years ago. This allowed me to keep calm and contributed to a good performance.”
Byrne said in addition to her cup final medal she received a match ball and commemorative shirt for the game.
And Byrne revealed a personal touch for her assistants Sian Massey-Ellis and Melissa Burgin and fourth official Lisa Benn, with whom she said she was delighted to share the experience.
“I had some flags embroidered for my assistants with their name and the details of the game, and a special coin for the fourth official, which I gave them as a gift to remember the game,” she said.
Byrne's last game of this season will be the match between Reading and Chelsea in the Women’s Super League on Saturday at Wycombe Wanderers.