There was deep sadness within the Wicklow GAA community on Tuesday morning when news reached us that legendary Kilcoole referee Jimmy Hatton had passed away at the age of 88.
Jimmy has an incredible refereeing CV gathered from a rich and full sporting life that saw him referee five Senior All-Ireland finals, three Minor All-Ireland finals, one Under-21 All-Ireland final and the provincial football finals in each of the four provinces of Ireland.
As a player, Jimmy won an O’Byrne Cup and a Leinster Junior hurling championship with Wicklow. He was a selector on Garden County teams that brought home provincial honours and a Junior All-Ireland title.
“He did something in refereeing that will never be done again,” said Jackie Napier who spoke warmly about his dear friend on Tuesday afternoon. “Apart from refereeing five Senior All-Ireland finals, he refereed both finals in the one year, 1966, together with the Minor final. That will never be done again,” added Jackie.
“He was the absolute tops in everything, refereeing and football and hurling. He won a Senior football championship with Kilcoole in 1954. He played half-back in hurling and corner-back in football and he would have played in six or seven hurling finals with Kilcoole and never won one,” added Jackie.
“A pillar of society. A big man in the Church. A devout catholic. He gave trojan service to his native church in Kilquade. He was a sacristan there for years and an altar boy in his younger days.
“He was a great character and he was always very good company,” said Jackie.
Jimmy took charge of an All-Ireland Intermediate hurling final between London and Cork with Avoca and Wicklow star Eamon Murray playing for the London side.
Speaking on Tuesday, Eamon reflected fondly on the experience and the man himself.
“I was glad he was there,” laughed Eamon. “He was a great referee and a gentleman. He hadn’t a bad word for anybody,” he added.
Wicklow GAA Chairman Damien Byrne said that Jimmy Hatton was “one of the greatest referees to ever come out of Wicklow”.
“To referee three All-Irelands in the one year and the four provincial football finals is unheard of. He gave huge service to Wicklow and to Kilcoole GAA, and all in Wicklow GAA would like to extend sincere condolences to his family,” he said.
Ciaran Dutton, Chairperson of Kilcoole GAA Club, said that Jimmy Hatton’s passing was a major blow for the local community.
“He was my neighbour, one door away from me, we all grew up on the same road,” said Ciaran. “Jimmy was a lovely man, a really, really nice man. He was all about Kilcoole GAA all his life. Later in years he didn’t get involved that deeply, but his children carried the flame.
“His daughter Noeleen was secretary of the club, his two sons, Colm and Seamus, were chairpersons of the club.
“He was a huge figure in Kilcoole GAA club all his life. The club were always aware of his achievements as a player and as a referee,” he added.
Ciaran added that Jimmy had supported Kilcoole teams at all levels down through the years and was especially proud of his grandson Luke Evans who is now playing for both Kilcoole and the Wicklow Senior hurling team.
The Kilcoole GAA Club Chairman said that all in the club would like to extend their deepest sympathies to the Hatton family on the passing of a true legend.
Jimmy was predeceased by his wife Rose, originally from Cavan, in 2017.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a aimn dilís.