Thursday 30 March 2017

'This is not a witch-hunt' - Referee at centre of Brian Gavin controversy wants answers

Michael Verney

Referee Brian Gavin has refereed 8 finals between 2011-2015.
Referee Brian Gavin has refereed 8 finals between 2011-2015.

Pauric Pierce, the referee at the centre of the Brian Gavin suspension controversy, cannot believe the Offaly County Board's decision to overturn the four-week ban without justification.

Clara chairman Gavin was reported by Pierce for comments made during the Offaly Junior Football Championship quarter-final between Clara and Kilclonfert in July but the suspension was subsequently rescinded, allowing the high-profile referee to take charge of the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford on August 9.

Pierce stepped down as Offaly Coiste na nÓg chairman as result of the ruling and despite seeking clarification 13 days ago, no response has been forthcoming.

"This is not a witch-hunt against Brian Gavin as I think he's the best referee in Ireland. I was just doing my job. The time and effort I have put into the Offaly County Board has been unreal and to be treated like this really vexes me," the 47-year-old said.

"A row broke out and Brian ran the width of the field to hurl abuse but I've no ill feelings towards him. I would have done the same if it was anyone else. There are no winners in this situation, just losers."

"For an outsider looking in it looks as if Brian's suspension was lifted so he could referee that game. Maybe they came under pressure from Croke Park, I don't know. The GAA seems to work in mysterious ways.

The Raheen man, who overcome a quadruple bypass 12 months ago to referee again, believes his treatment is typical of the plight of the men in black who have a thankless job.

"It's open season on referees. Everybody saw what went on, what message are sending to referees in the GAA? I've received great backing from clubs and referees but nothing from the County Board," he said.

"After all the work I've put into the GAA surely that's the least I could expect, it's common courtesy. After 25 years of service to the GAA this feels like a bit of a slap in the face.

"I'm wondering what ruling this comes under and I want clarification. If I made a mistake in my report or done something wrong then I want to know. I just want answers."

Pierce took up refereeing eight years ago when his playing career finished and the father of four's eldest son Fintan, 20, is following in his footsteps into refereeing. However, despite serving as chairman for two years, he now finds it impossible to vindicate the County Board.

He concluded: "I've been working with them for the last six or seven years and now nothing. I've defended them up and down because people don't realise the good work that's being done. But once again we've let ourselves down badly."

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