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Westmeath ref opts out of ladies fixtures over 'shocking' verbal abuse






A Westmeath-based referee has said he will no longer take charge of ladies football games in the county because of verbal abuse he received during a recent match.

Shane Farrell, a 45-year-old garda originally from Dublin but now living in Westmeath where he is attached to the Ballynacargy club, has alleged he was called a "retard" after sending a player to the sin-bin during the match.

Farrell, a former inter-county referee who took charge of a Dublin final in the past, subsequently issued the player with a red card, an action he claimed led to a "volley of abuse" from other players.

He said he was "shocked beyond belief" and couldn't wait for the game to end.

The player he sent off is a member of the Westmeath ladies football squad.

She was subsquently suspended for one-month by the county's disciplinary committee.

However, on appeal to the Westmeath Ladies County Board on Monday night of last week, she had the suspension reduced to two weeks.

The reduction made her available for the county's Leinster round-robin match against Laois in Mullingar last Sunday which they won ahead of their male counterparts' Leinster SFC quarter-final win over Wexford.

Westmeath ladies County Board chairperson Geraldine Giles has emphatically stressed that the reduction had nothing to do with the upcoming game against Laois.

In a letter which Farrell sent to the Ladies Gaelic Football Association in Croke Park seeking answers about the suspension, he raised the issue of that fixture.

Giles says the reduction had "absolutely nothing to do with it".

"The girl came in and made her appeal. Under no circumstances was that the case," she said. "Yes, she is a county player. Had the one-month suspension been upheld her club and county would have accepted that."

Giles said the player was entitled to appeal under rule 296 of the Official Guide which gives a committee, in this case Westmeath County Board, the power to review or impose suspensions as they deem necessary.

At the most recent Ladies Congress, rule 273, which governs the abuse of match officials, the minimum suspension was lifted from two weeks to four weeks on the back of a Dublin motion which was carried by 80-9.

Farrell was initially under the impression that the ban had been overturned and sent a letter to Croke Park on that basis querying why this was the case.

He has since been informed by Westmeath Ladies County Board that it was a reduction on appeal but he is adamant about the nature of the abuse and feels let down by the turn of events.

"My report is a matter of fact, not conjecture, or something I believed I heard or saw. My profession requires me to be very sharp.

"If I sent a player off for striking and was proven to be wrong I can accept that, if prima facie evidence is available," he said in the letter.

He also said he felt like "a pariah" in the county because of it.

Farrell is keen to "draw a line" under the matter now and move on but wanted to highlight the issue of verbal abuse of match officials.

Irish Independent