Limerick referee steps down after parent hit him with hurley

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

No longer a man in the middle: Shane Florish

No longer a man in the middle: Shane Florish

A COUNTY Limerick man has been found guilty of assaulting an umpire with a hurley after his son’s school team lost a match by a point.

The father was found guilty of assault and threatening, abusive, insulting behaviour at Fermoy Court. The injured party, Shane Florish, Mungret, said the incident was the catalyst for him giving up refereeing.

“I like my face the way it is and I had had enough of the abuse,” said Shane, aged 44.

The Mungret man refereed up to inter county level with ladies football and senior club – hurling and football – in the men’s game. He decided to become the “man in the middle” after he wasn’t happy with the way a referee handled a match he was watching.

“One of the lads I was with said, ‘If you think you can do better do the course’ – that’s how it started in 2009. In my first year in between refereeing, umpiring and doing the line I did 452 matches. I loved it,” said Shane.

In April 2015, he was asked to be an umpire at a Munster schools u-15 final in Fermoy. It was a clean game of hurling but there was two points for the same team disallowed – one by the referee and one by Shane. What happened after the match ended up in Fermoy Court last month.

”I wouldn’t say they were contentious disallowed points – they were wide. They lost by a point in the finish. The full-time whistle went. I saw a fellow coming over the advertising hoarding and making his way towards the referee. I went beside the referee because he looked like he was going to give the referee grief. He called the referee a ‘f*****g pervert”. He said: ‘You’re nothing but a f*****g pervert riding young fellows’. 

“You will always have people saying stuff - it is par for the course - but that was over the top. There were a lot of parents on the field, the two teams were on the field and to hear that... To be fair and I will say this on the record, it probably wasn’t meant that way but the fact is it was said within earshot of others.”

Shane told the Limerick parent to, “Go away, you f*****g scumbag, that is an awful thing to say”.

“He turned  around, said, ‘Who you calling a f*****g scumbag?’ There was a bunch of hurleys on the ground, he picked one up and gave me a belt into the left elbow. It wasn’t like he was swinging an axe but it was a good belt. The referee got in between the two of us and we walked off to the dressing room. He just went off.”

Shane went to hospital where it was suspected a chip was taken off his elbow but it was just badly bruised. He continued for about a year but decided to hang up his whistle.

“That incident was the start of the decision making process of giving up refereeing. I had had enough of it. That was the starting point.

“I like my face the way it is. If he hit me in the face and I had a four inch scar going into work how would that look when I go to meet clients in my job,” said Shane, who can foresee an official being seriously hurt if there is isn’t a clampdown on abuse directed to GAA referees. 

“Something has to be done. Some parents are very bad at U-12, U-14 games. They think their Johnny or their Mary are the only players on the field and they can’t be touched. The minute the ball is taken off them they are screaming blue murder at the referee. I’ve seen grown men fighting on the sideline,” he said. 

He believes the only way to stamp out abuse is by hitting perpetrators in their pockets.

“Referees have to report every instance of abuse. It has to enforced by county boards. It has to be stamped out from the sideline. The only way is to issue fines to the clubs and suspensions if a guy is abusing a referee. If a kid hears this he thinks it is alright to do it.

“If I’m a trainer and a club gets fined €1,000 a couple of times because I’m abusing referees it won’t be long before other club volunteers tell me to cop on or get out. Abuse of referees has to be stamped out with fines and suspensions,” said Shane.