Eakin on the sidelines as NI team tackle England and Ireland game

Gareth Eakin (second left) from Portadown before kick-off on Sunday in the Republic of Ireland and England friendly.
Gareth Eakin (second left) from Portadown before kick-off on Sunday in the Republic of Ireland and England friendly.
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Gareth Eakin has described sharing Sunday’s field of play with global names such as Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling as “just another game”.

The Portadown-born referee’s assistant was operating the line at the Aviva Stadium last weekend for the international friendly between Republic of Ireland and England.

Eakin and Robert Storey formed the team of match officials from Northern Ireland headed by Arnold Hunter for the international friendly that finished in a scoreless draw.

Events on the field may have failed to provide significant entertainment value to the 43,400-plus crowd and television viewers but proved positive for Eakin and colleagues.

“We have a job to do so you focus on that and treat it as just another game, then reflect on the occasion after the final whistle,” said Eakin, who has around 40 internationals under his belt since 2007. “We have been working together as a team for some time now and that obviously helps.

“Even at Irish League level, they try to keep us together as much as possible and Arnold is now ranked just one level below the Elite category.

We have a job to do so you focus on that and treat it as just another game

Gareth Eakin

“We have operated at World Cup and European Championship qualifiers in the past, plus various Europa League games.

“I have been a referee’s assistant for competitive games involving teams such as Greece, Villareal and Torino.

“Sunday may have been a friendly but it was another chance to build up experience, especially in preparation for the EURO 2016 qualifier between Ukraine v Luxembourg.

“You try to blank out the crowd and forget about the player so it is not Wayne Rooney but the number 10.

“Our role is to officiate the game in the correct manner, then we can look back after the job is finished.

“The big difference the higher up you move basically comes down to speed, in terms of how the top guys play the game and how quickly the match moves.”