JIMMY HATTON –
REFEREE, HURLER, FOOTBALLER, COUNTY SELECTOR (both codes)
By Donal Cooney
Jimmy Hatton from Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, began refereeing hurling and football games in 1957 and this was the beginning of his long and distinguished career as a referee. From his juvenile days he was involved with his Kilcoole Parish in GAA affairs. He later took up refereeing at the request of Jim Brophy, then secretary of the North Wicklow District Board. Jimmy was glad of the offer as it gave him further involvement in GAA games and affairs. At that time GAA games were not as frequent as they are now; and also there were not as many grades of fixtures as at present. He started refereeing juvenile games and progressed to adult fixtures. He wasn’t long making an impression, and the secretary of the Wicklow County Board, George Nicholls, asked him to referee games around County Wicklow. One day he was asked to referee an Inter-County National League fixture between Carlow and Limerick. This arose because the official referee, Sean O’Farrell, was unable to officiate. Sean later joked “I loaned you my job and you stole it from me”. Jimmy was now on the road for the next 10/12 years very busy refereeing matches in Wicklow, in all four Provinces and abroad. His career blossomed, and soon he was asked to referee an All Ireland Minor Final in 1962 between Kerry and Mayo. Although Kerry won the match he later received a letter from the Mayo Co. Secretary congratulating him on his handling of the game. For the next 10 years Jimmy was kept busy voluntarily refereeing games and playing Club hurling and football in Co. Wicklow. The 1960s were peak years. He married in 1965.
The All Ireland games he refereed were : –
1962 – Minor Football Final – Kerry v Mayo
1963 – Senior Hurling Final – Kilkenny v Waterford
1964 – Senior Football Final – Kerry v Galway
1965 – Minor Football Final – Derry v Kerry
1966 – Senior Hurling Final – Kilkenny v Cork
1966 – Senior Football Final – Meath v Galway
1966 – Minor Hurling Final replay – Wexford v Cork
1967 – Intermediate Hurling Final – London v Cork
1968 – Under 21 Football Final, – Derrry v Offaly
1970 – Senior Hurling Final – Cork v Wexford
1970 – Intermediate Hurling Final – Antrim v Warwickshire
As can be seen above Jimmy refereed 3 All Ireland Finals in 1966 – 2 seniors and 1 minor. He was the only man to referee Minor and Senior in the same year. This can never happen again as the GAA changed the rules so that a referee can only officiate at one senior All Ireland Final in the same year.
In addition to the above, he refereed the first All Ireland Club Football Final between East Kerry and Bryansford (Co. Down). In the Intermediate All Ireland Hurling Final in 1967 between London and Cork Eamonn Murray of Wicklow was playing on the London team. Jimmy was hoping Eamon would not show any recognition of him until after the match. However, as soon as Eamonn arrived on the pitch he ran over and shook his hand.
Jimmy travelled to San Francisco U.S.A. to referee a game between The All Stars Offaly v Tipperary. This was the first All Stars Tour.
As if that wasn’t enough he refereed 2 championship games on a Sunday afternoon in Athy, Co. Kildare – Minor and Senior fixtures between Carlow and Kilkenny. At that time Kilkenny had a Senior Football Team. That evening he travelled to Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath, where he refereed a Senior Football Tournament match between Meath and Kildare at the opening of a new ground in Dunshaughlin. The following Monday he played in a football match at Islandbridge, Dublin, in an inter-firms competition. On the following Wednesday he refereed 2 Garda tournament finals at Parnell Park, Dublin. This amounted to refereeing five games and playing in one in four days, which he now considers too much. He refereed matches in which many prominent players participated, and these included – Christy Ring, Eddie Keher, the Rackard brothers, and others. He considers Eddie Keher the greatest during his refereeing years.
In 1954 he won a Senior Wicklow County Football Medal together with brother Danny playing with Kilcoole. He won a Leinster Junior Hurling Medal with Wicklow in 1964 and an O’Byrne Senior Football cup with Wicklow in 1957 beating Kildare in the Final.
Jimmy was a selector in both football and hurling codes when Wicklow Junior footballers won the Leinster Championship, beating Kerry in the “home” final in 1969, and in 1976 when Wicklow hurlers won Division 2 of the National Hurling League. He was treasurer of his Kilcoole Club for 10 years. He refereed provincial finals in all four provinces and county finals in Wicklow, Dublin, Westmeath and Carlow.
He wrote 2 Articles for the “Leathers Echo, Wicklow GAA 1884 – 1984”. This publication was edited by Jim Brophy. One Article was titled “From Kilcoole to San Francisco”. This is a good read for GAA enthusiasts, but particularly so for young referees. In the second Article “The Perils of Refereeing” he outlines the perils that can arise in the course of refereeing a game and the agony that can follow. In this instance all went well for him.
Jimmy maintains that a good referee needs a knowledge of the rules, an eagle eye, fitness, common sense, a love of the game and of course “a bit of luck”. Jimmy wasn’t short of any of these qualities.
Jimmy suffered a heart attack in 2002 and also suffers with knee and hip complaints. He can only walk short distances due to pains in both knees and in his hip. These should be operated on but hospital doctors and a consultant have advised against them to date. To quote the Consultant who said “Jimmy, the pain won’t kill you but the operations might”. Because of the amount of “mileage” he has put on his legs and body in his playing and refereeing days is it any wonder he suffers pain?
Jimmy has already been recognised and awarded with honours by his native County and by the GAA Administration. He has also been made a member of the “Knights of the Whistle” and one of his whistles is on display in La Na Pairce in Croke Park. In 2005 he was inducted into the GAAs Hall of Fame and was presented with a Tyrone Chrystal replica of the Liam McCarthy Cup. In 2009 he was inducted into The Garden County’s GAA Hall of Fame which was attended by his family and friends. These honours he richly deserved.
Jimmy married his wife Rose in 1965 and they have a family of four – 2 sons and 2 daughters, all active in GAA and camogie affairs. The Hatton Clan have been involved in the GAA over many years, but can anyone come up to the dedicated exceptional, distinctive and voluntary service Jimmy has given to his beloved GAA. HATS OFF TO YOU JIMMY