A Wexford referee is “still shocked” by the incident where he was allegedly physically accosted after the final whistle of a junior hurling game in the county last month.
Jimmy Heavey went public to describe his own ordeal, which happened over six weeks ago, with Wexford GAA and the wider organisation will absorbing the latest alleged attack on another Wexford referee at the end of a football game last Sunday morning.
A 72-week suspension was subsequently issued to a Naomh Éanna member after Heavey oversaw Na Fianna Clonard’s 0-15 to 1-9 win in their junior B hurling semi-final played at Oylegate in mid-August.
The referee, from the Geraldine O’Hanrahans club, has now relived that post-match flashpoint in an interview with Marty Morrissey aired on RTÉ Radio.
“We blew the final whistle, came off the pitch. A man approached me, exchanged a few words … obviously he wasn’t happy with the result. With that, I knew I was after being struck,” Heavey recalled.
“Shocked – probably still am a bit shocked from it, if I tell you the truth.
“You go out to do an honest, fair job; you look after two teams the best you can, keep them safe and keep them sound, to progress onto a final … and something like this happens.
“You kind of question your own ability to do stuff. Mentally, I’m pretty strong – but it still leaves that doubt in your mind. When I blow this whistle, is something going to happen?”
Heavey went on to remark: “I think we do a fair job everywhere we go – you know, we try to. This kind of thing has to end somewhere. I love the game; I stopped playing because my body wasn’t able to let me play hurling or football anymore. But I stayed at the refereeing and I really enjoy it.
“We’re trying to get people into do refereeing, and it would be very hard to get people into do refereeing when this kind of thing happens.
“So the buck has to stop somewhere, and hopefully it does soon.”
In what qualifies as a sadly repeating story, several GAA club referees have found themselves in the line of fire over recent weeks.
Wexford gardaí are investigating an alleged assault of referee Michael Lanigan, who had taken charge of last Sunday’s junior A football game in Whiterock Hill between St Joseph's and Our Lady's Island.
The St Joseph's club has moved to suspend a mentor, even as Wexford GAA conducts its own investigation. The mentor has apologised for his behaviour in a 'Wexford People' interview, insisting he pushed the referee but did not strike or elbow him.
This follows another widely publicised flashpoint - in Roscommon at the end of August - that led to a referee being hospitalised. The minor match in question was abandoned and the Roscommon CCC proposed 96-week ban for one of the team mentors.
Meanwhile, underage matches in Kerry and Mayo last weekend were abandoned in the wake of incidents not directly involving referees.