FIFA referee who handled matches at home and in Europe

DURING his distinguished refereeing career, George Hyndes controlled football matches that included world stars like Holland's Ruud Gullit, and the likes of George Best, Pat Jennings, Mark Hughes and Ossie Ardiles. Yet, he showed the same professionalism when controlling matches here in Northern Ireland, whether they were Irish League encounters, junior soccer or Boys Brigade football.

That was the measure of Mr Hyndes, who died last week, aged 71. He was a FIFA referee who went on to become an assessor, when he ended his career as the man in the middle.

The football fraternity of Northern Ireland - players, managers and fellow referees - respected him as a firm and very fair official, and that respect spilled over into his personal life which reflected all aspects of George Hyndes.

It is often said that the best referees get through games without being noticed, and that's how senior referee Alan Snoddy described his colleague and friend in a statement after Saturday's funeral at St Mark's (Portadown) Parish Church where he was such a faithful attender, and where he committed himself to his faith in March 2006. And in October that year, he was confirmed as an adult by Archbishop Robin Eames.

George Hyndes was born in Lurgan in October 1939, the son of the late Billy and Sissy Hyndes and the second eldest of the family of five that lived at Blackers Mill Row. He attended Moyallon Primary School and then went to Portadown Technical School, after which he served his time as a joiner with Hyde's of Mandeville Street.

He later moved to work with the Water Board, ending his career as area manager based in Banbridge and taking early retirement nine years ago when he was 62.

He married the former Olive Murray in Armagh Road Presbyterian Church in November 1969 - they were 'regulars' at the famous Savoy Ballroom in West Street - and they have a son and daughter, Steven and Gail. There are two grandchildren, Zach and Sam.

Mr Hyndes, whose home was at The Willows, Brownstown Road, is also survived by two brothers, Quinten (Tandragee), Brian (Canada) and sister Kathleen Dowey (Lurgan), by Steven's partner Caroline and Gail's husband Peter.

Outside his family, sport was always his great passion, and among the sports he played were squash, table tennis and football, and he enjoyed watching golf, cricket and darts on television. Football, though, was his true passion, and he played for his school teams and for Moyallon in the Mid Ulster League.

He had to quit the playing side early due to a knee injury, and immediately took up refereeing - a skill he admitted he understood only too well, as he often got into impassioned "discussions" with the whistlers during his playing days! His progress through the ranks was swift and sure, making the transition from junior football to the Irish League and then into the heady ranks of FIFA, with his skills recognised by the administrators, the players, fellow referees and the various clubs.

He was soon in demand in European football, and took charge of matches involving PSV Eindhoven, Porto, Austria, Hungary and Wales, controlling an international game involving the latter two countries. And on the home front, he was often in charge of Irish league games involving ‘The Big Two' - Linfield and Glentoran. In 1987, he was handed the Irish Cup Final between Glentoran and Larne, which the east Belfast side won 1-0.

He was highly honoured to officiate in the Pat Jennings Testimonial game, which included the great goalkeeper as well as legends like George Best and Norman Whiteside, and he also took charge of an Ireland v England Select, with Linfield's David Jeffrey captaining the Irishmen and Ardiles the England skipper.

After he gave up the whistle, he became an assessor and had a real knack of spotting young refereeing talent, and encouraging the young ones to take on the mantle at the highest level.

Mr Hyndes actively encouraged his children to pursue their sporting dreams, and was proud when Steven played for teams like Armagh City, Glenavon, Crusaders and finally Loughgall, and when Gail excelled in the local hockey scene.

He was a loving and devoted husband to Olive, and together they enjoyed their caravan at Kilkeel, going on walks together, foreign holidays and attending St Mark's where he was, for many years, a member of the Men's Bible Class.

All these aspects of his life were highlighted by St Mark's Rector, Canon Jim Campbell, at Saturday's funeral, when a well-filled church included people from all walks of life, especially referees like Alan Snoddy, Mark Courtney, Malcolm Wright and Malcolm Moffatt, and local managers Ronnie McFall (Portadown) and Niall Currie (Loughgall).

Canon Campbell was assisted by Curate, the Rev Carmen Hayes, and interment was at the family plot at Knocknamuckley Churchyard.