A Derry official has described this season as ‘extremely challenging’ with nine officials being ‘physically assaulted.’

In his report to Monday’s AGM, Referees’ Administrator Sean Curran also confirmed that two ‘senior’ referees have stepped down as a result and that ‘at least’ a dozen officials are required to ‘properly service’ games over the next decade.

Peter O’Connor hasn’t refereed this year.  Benny Quinn has stepped away this season and has joined Liam Bradley’s management team with Ballinascreen’s senior football team.

During the 2018 championship Damian Harkin and Dan Mullan, who refereed Saturday’s Ulster intermediate final, were attacked following games.

“This year has been extremely challenging for senior and new recruits with seven referees and two match officials physically assaulted,” Curran stated in his report.

“Some officials are now refusing to go to clubs where their safety is not guaranteed as some clubs’ responsible are turning a blind eye to repeat offenders,” Curran continued.

He also recognised that ‘most clubs’ are working to resolve the issue but stressed the need to ‘eradicate’ the problem to keep the referees on board and recruit newcomers.

“The vast majority of referees agree it is not fair to punish the clubs for the assaults and bad behaviour of offenders but we unanimously agree it’s the clubs’ responsibility to deal harshly with those who do,” Curran added.

“Over the last five years we have worked extremely hard in recruiting and training and increased our numbers to fifty eight active officials,” Curran pointed out.  “We need at least another twelve to properly service our games over the next ten years.

“All our officials will tell you that refereeing is as rewarding as playing and clubs should look at persuading ex-players to come forward and take up the whistle.”

Out-going secretary Danny Scullion also highlighted the matter of discipline in his report, which he will deliver to the AGM for the last time following five years in the post.

Scullion referred to the ‘high-level’ aspects of what occurred during the ‘latter half’ of the year and called on clubs to ‘dissociate’ themselves from the perpetrators.

“Whilst the vast majority of our games are played with a sporting spirit, incidents, particularly in the social media age, continue to blight our reputation as an association,” Scullion wrote.

“On several high profile occasions, referees have been physically assaulted. There is never, ever any justification for this kind of behaviour.

“If greater media scrutiny of these incidents causes clubs and communities to reflect on this area, then that is a good thing,” Scullion continued.

In her report, CCC Secretary Breige O’Neill outlined an ‘overall decrease’, in disciplinary matters, but highlighted the concern at the increasing number of ‘non-player’ incidents and deemed attacks on referees and officials as ‘not acceptable’.

Also, in an interview for this week’s County Derry Post, Chairman nominee Bobby Farren gave his opinion on the issue of violence in the GAA and towards referees.

“I am very much against violence.  It is something we can learn from rugby, the respect that the referees get because, at the end of the day, these people are giving up their Sunday afternoons to try and help fulfil our sport,” Farren said.

“That is going to end up ruining our sport ultimately.  They will not want to take part and if they walk away then the whole thing starts to crumble around us.”

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