By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — J.J. Barrett, who resigned last week as Wexford football manager after punching a referee at the end of a National League game, has been suspended by the GAA for two years.
The Games Administration Committee of the Association was in no mood to show mercy to Barrett as it handed down the maximum suspension possible. There was speculation that because Barrett had publicly and privately apologized to referee Mick Curley, he might be banned for only a year.
The former Kerry All-Ireland medal , who is also a GAA reporter with the Evening Herald, was clearly shaken by the severity of the sentence.
“I just hope that this decision does not discourage others from coming clean in the future and telling the truth as it happened,” he said.
Barrett punched Curley after Wexford lost to Cavan by point in an important League game last Sunday week. The referee had awarded Cavan a controversial penalty in injury time that incensed the Wexford manager and his players.
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Barrett later described his moment of madness as “reprehensible” and the “most cowardly thing” he has done in his life. But his immediate admission of guilt cut no ice with the GAC.
“I hid nothing from anyone, but in giving me two years, I would think that the GAC had already made up their minds before I went before them,” Barrett said. “I can have no complaints and I will not be appealing the decision. I will take my medicine because what I did was totally wrong and inexcusable.”
Meanwhile, the Wexford County Board has moved swiftly in appointing Ger Halligan as Barrett’s successor. Halligan was previously a selector during Barrett’s time in charge.
Now the GAC will turn its attention to the investigations into the halftime tunnel incident during the National Football League game between Westmeath and Wicklow in February. The incident left Westmeath’s goalkeeper, Dermot Ryan, with a broken jaw. Given the get-tough policy in the Barrett case, another long suspension would appear to be in the offing for the guilty party.