Thursday 8 December 2016

Famed Irish rugby referee who sent off All Blacks captain and backed lifetime ban for Peter Clohessy passes away

Published 28/10/2016 | 17:40

Rugby Union referees, Bernard Marie (L) and Kevin Kelleher. (Photo by Universal/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Rugby Union referees, Bernard Marie (L) and Kevin Kelleher. (Photo by Universal/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

One of Irish rugby's most respected referees has passed away after a short illness.

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Kevin Kelleher was an international official from 1960 to 1972, with his most high profile decision coming in a clash between Scotland and the All Blacks at Murrayfield in 1967, when he sent off All Blacks star Colin Meads for kicking an opponent.

Meads was just the second ever All Black to see red, and due to his notoriously physical style of play, the Daily Telegraph wrote at the time that the sending off was 'rather like sending a burglar to prison for a parking offence'.

Kelleher remained involved in rugby after retiring as a referee, becoming President of the Leinster Branch in 1977 while also serving as Honorary Secretary of the Leinster Schools Committee for 52 years.

He was a particularly vocal critic of Ireland and Munster legend Peter Clohessy following a violent 1996 stamp.

The ex-referee gave a frank appraisal of the incident to the Irish Times.

"I watched the incident several times over on television and, quite frankly, I was absolutely appalled," he said.

"It was horrific. He could have killed him.

"On the basis of his previous record, I would put him out of the game for keeps."

Kellher also spent many years as the headmaster of St Conleth's College in Dublin.

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