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Referee Carthage Buckley recalls the infamous 'Battle of Aughrim' between Wicklow and Laois

Updated: Thursday, 15 May 2014 16:41 | Comments

Carthage Buckley kept refereeing for 16 years after that infamous day in Aughrim
Carthage Buckley kept refereeing for 16 years after that infamous day in Aughrim

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The date was 15 June 1986. The sun shone brightly and among the games down for decision on that Sunday was the meeting of Wicklow and Laois in the Leinster Senior Football Championship.

A month previously, the midlanders were triumphant in the NFL final and now had designs on provincial success. They were warm favourites to clear the first hurdle.

However, at the end of 70 minutes in Aughrim, three Laois players were sent off and another was carried off with a broken nose.

Against the odds, Wicklow had prevailed by four points in a game that was quickly dubbed 'The Battle of Aughrim'.

Next Sunday the counties lock horns again in the opening round of this year's Leinster campaign.

Referee Carthage Buckley was the centre of attention in that now infamous game from the summer of '86.

He denies claims that he was assaulted after the match.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, he said: "When the final whistle went, the ground was swallowed up in seconds but I have to give praise to the officials and the Gardaí.

"Indeed, one of the Gardaí was a very prominent Offaly footballer. He did everything in his power that day to look after me.

"I not once was struck by hand, flag or foot. I was surrounded and it took three quarters of an hour from the final whistle for me to get to the dressing room. I say dressing room, but anyone who remembers Aughrim at the that time will know it was a small, glorified tin shed with a few benches.

"I not once was struck by hand, flag or foot" - Carthage Buckley

"I was in there for a long time. There was a still a crowd outside baying. Eventually, somebody said to me ‘let’s go’. The Gardaí then walked with me to my car. A few followed us. My car was attacked as I was driving out. The roof of the car was damaged."

Buckley then recalled the days that followed.

"I was a little bit tense for a few days afterwards. At the time I was working in Kilbeggan. I never lost a minute at work. I thought somebody from Laois might drop by the shop and say ‘that’s where that guy works’. Quite simply, I got no threats and no phone calls.

"However, one month later I did get a threatening anonymous letter. I did not report it. I think it was the right decision to leave well enough alone."  

The Offaly official went on to recall the sendings-off on that day 28 years ago.

"Willie Brennan (Laois) and Nick O’Neill (Wicklow) were the first to go. They took lumps out of each other. 

"The second incident involved Christy Maguire, the Wicklow corner-back, and a Laois player – I can’t think of his name.  When I arrived at the scene the Laois player was spitting teeth out into the palm of his hand. He held them up and showed them to me.

“There was fine minutes left when Laois’ Tom Prendergast was sent-off. At the time he was one of Ireland’s greatest half-forwards. He was as good as ever there was.

“It was described as a filthy, dirty match. There were three incidents. I never turned around once a saw a melee anywhere on the pitch."  

Despite rumours that Buckley was locked in the boot of a car after the Aughrim affair and had subsequently given up refereeing, he went on to officiate at many top inter-county games. He hung up his whistle after the 2002 O'Byrne Cup final. 

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