Sunday 30 April 2017

Hurley-attack victim Barrett insists final whistle not yet blown on career

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Veteran referee Willie Barrett has vowed not to be deterred by the vicious attack on him by a hurley-wielding supporter that forced him to abandon a South Tipperary championship match over the weekend.

Barrett, who suffered blows from the hurl to the back, hip and hand during the frenzied attack, is adamant he will be back on the field within a week. Twice an All-Ireland final referee, Barrett, who stepped down from inter-county duties in 2004, said he had been heartened by the calls of support he had received since the incident on Saturday night.

Match officials and officials from the South Tipperary Board, who hope to wrap up their investigation into the incident by tomorrow, are satisfied that the attack was alcohol-fuelled, a disturbing development for the GAA.

Barrett was refereeing the South Tipperary SHC match between Carrick Davin and Ballingarry when he was confronted by the supporter, with links to Carrick Davin, 10 minutes into the second half.

His linesman, Keith O'Brien, had already restrained at least one other 'supporter' who had made his way out on to the field as he was about to send off a Ballingarry player. Carrick had already been reduced to 13 men when the incident with the hurl occurred.

Barrett was so badly shaken that he had to be helped from the field by officials from the local Kilsheelan club. The Kilsheelan ground is, like many others in South Tipperary, not fenced off and access for the supporter who attacked Barrett was easy.

Barrett admitted he never had to abandon a match in 33 years of refereeing, saying he thought about his future strongly after the game.

"The support I've had is incredible. It has heartened me. I won't let it deter me. I'm sore alright. I got a blow to the back and the hand and I know that the people of Carrick Davin were disgusted by it," said Barrett. "Nothing like this has happened to me before but you would wonder about the levels of respect towards a referee after it."

On local radio yesterday, a Davins club official stated the spectator who allegedly assaulted Willie Barrett with a hurl was not a paid up club member.

The South Tipp Board knows the identity of the assailant and the matter is in the hands of local gardai. In the meantime the South Board was due to meet last night again as their investigation into the incident continued.

South Board chairman Dick Egan gave the time-frame yesterday for the conclusion of the investigation.

"Certain things have to be checked out but we hope to have this done and dusted by Wednesday," he said. "We have to establish the assailant's name officially -- we have it unofficially."

Irish Independent

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