Tyler McElhinney has stood out in goal and with a whistle in the middle of the field. (Photo courtesy of ENYYSA)

As it turns out, Tyler McElhinney can work on both sides of the referee’s whistle quite well.

Let’s start with his ability as a player.

When the Boys South 1999 Olympic Development Program team of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association won the Boys Under-16 national championship two years ago, goalkeeper Tyler McElhinney was a very bright star of the Final Four.

Eastern New York had to overcome the Arizona heat, especially since it had been training during the New York winter, as well as having a player sent off early in the second half in the semifinal and final. McElhinney had a shutout during 240 minutes, saved three penalty kicks in the tie-breaker and scored on both his shootout attempts.

“This was the best group of kids I have ever coached in three decades of coaching,” Ralph Pascarella, the team’s head coach said after winning the national title. “All 18 guys bought into team first and everybody played a role and contributed, through two overtime games and two shootouts. Blake Aronson and Matt Sloan were great leaders on the field and Tyler McElhinney would have gotten MVP if the Final Four had that award.”

McElhinney did not stop there as he was selected Conference A1 Player of the Year and All-State and All-Region by the United Soccer Coaches while playing for Jericho High School, named to the ODP Interregional Event Best XI in 2016. He was also honored as Migilor Portiere (Best Goalkeeper) at the 20th Annual Piccole Squadre Torneo in Italy six years ago.

The Jericho, N.Y. resident started playing soccer as a field player when he was five years old. At age 11, he followed in the footsteps of his brother Conor and became a goalkeeper. He has excelled in goal for Long Island Junior Soccer League teams Jericho Galaxy, Syosset Warriors, East Meadow Hawks 98s and the Dix Hills Hurricanes, his current squad.

Jericho H.S. head coach Dani Braga, who helped lead St. John’s University to the 1996 NCAA Division I national championship, has been impressed.

“Tyler has grown as a person and a goalkeeper by leaps and bounds since I first coached him in eighth grade,” he said. “He is a sponge of the game and I have always been a tougher critic of Tyler both as his coach and a former goalkeeper, but he has always kept a level head and has shown he can succeed. I’m happy for Tyler for the many awards he has deservedly won.”

McElhinney took another important step in his career when he became a referee at age 12.

“I started refereeing because I was constantly watching soccer at such a young age and I found myself as a volunteer linesman on a few occasions,” he said. “I figured taking the referee course was a great way to stay in shape, stay involved in the game and make some extra money on the side,” he explained.

It was a quick climb up the referee ladder as McElhinney officiated a final in the Danone Nations Cup and received the Rising Star Award this winter from the Long Island Soccer Referee Association.

“Tyler is one of the most dependable, knowledgeable, and professional young men to rise in LISRA’s ranks,” LISRA president Cathy Caldwell said. “His demeanor on the pitch and dedication to learn and perfect his officiating is admirable. It is my pleasure to watch him evolve into a terrific referee.”

After he graduates from high school in June, McElhinney will be off to Baltimore to play for Loyola University. And on St. Patrick’s Day Saturday, this Irish-American has been appropriately assigned to officiate on a field named after another Irish-American, the Peter C. Collins Soccer Park in Plainview, N.Y. Collins is a former LIJSL president.

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.