High School Sports

Kentucky's oldest soccer ref uses savvy, fitness to stay ahead of the action

Referee Aubrey Cashman, center, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, watched play during a match between Lexington Catholic and Henry Clay on Tuesday.
Referee Aubrey Cashman, center, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, watched play during a match between Lexington Catholic and Henry Clay on Tuesday. Herald-Leader

Play picks up in the final minutes of a scoreless soccer scrimmage, the Lexington Catholic and Henry Clay girls desperately trying to put a shot on net.

All but invisible in the middle of the field is Aubrey Cashman, the referee.

All but invisible because Cashman seems to have a sixth sense that allows him to be in the midst of the action without getting in the way.

And he does so at age 79 — the oldest certified official working high school matches in Kentucky.

"I admire him. Definitely," Henry Clay Coach Mebit Aragaw said after Tuesday's 0-0 draw. "And he's still one of the best."

"He is a father figure to all soccer players and coaches. Kentucky soccer is lucky to have Mr. Aubrey."

Lexington Catholic Coach Terry Quigley has known Cashman, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, for nearly 30 years.

"He is one of those people that is very affable. Somebody that just is warm; he's got that Irish brogue going," Quigley said. "And I think he runs the field as well as he did 30 years ago. It's always good to have him."

Cashman, a former professional player, is in his 28th season as a Kentucky official. He wants to reach 30 years of service, which would put him at 81.

He loves "the beautiful game" that much.

"I do. I want to keep fit," Cashman said. "My dad was 95 when he died, and I want to live to 95 if I can. And this helps me quite a bit.

"I get plenty of sleep and I eat well. I don't smoke."

At 5-foot-5, 172 pounds, Cashman still shows flashes of his days as a fireplug of a sweeper — or center halfback, as his position was called.

Working the lines with him for the scoreless scrimmage were Henry Woo, a spry 70, and Frank LaBoone, a mere lad of 61. Together, the three have 74 years of officiating experience.

"I've learned something from them each time I've refereed," LaBoone said. "While they're not the fastest afoot on the field, they have the ability to be in the right spot at the right angle to see what needs to be seen.

"Sometimes people can accomplish that with speed, and sometimes people can accomplish it with experience and technique and strategy to know where I need to be when the ball's in certain spots. That's what I try to learn from them."

Cashman attended high school and college in Northern Ireland, earning a degree in mechanical engineering.

He came to Toronto in 1957 to work and play soccer. A year later, he arrived in the Unites States to play for the Cleveland Hibernians.

Then came two years in the military and various stops around the United States.

He came to Lexington from New Orleans in 1980 to work for IBM. He later worked for the city and is now retired.

Retired from work, but not from play.

He spends October through April at his second home, in Florida. There he swims, golfs and walks 3 to 5 miles a day.

Cashman and his wife, Brigid, have four children and seven grandchildren. All the grandchildren play organized soccer.

Cashman might be the biggest kid of all, though, having fun with the game he loves. He expects a certain level of abuse from players and coaches, but he respects the passion.

"I don't give out red cards," he said. "You have to earn them."

"The majority of the time you just talk to the player," Woo said. "Tell them to behave themselves or otherwise there will be serious consequences; and they quit. They will listen to you. We have quite a few other individuals (officials), they just flash the card immediately."

To which Cashman said, "They lose respect, we lose respect when you do that. You have to talk to these kids. It's a learning process."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader