Online abuse of GAA players and officials has become so severe that referees are being advised to stay off social media in the days after they officiate at games.

A current top-level hurling referee has told Prime Time that a psychologist has even been made available by the GAA in Croke Park for inter-county referees to talk to.

Watch Conor McMorrow's report on Prime Time

James Owens, who has refereed three All-Ireland senior hurling finals, has been on the receiving end of toxic social media abuse several times.

He has warned online trolls that their abuse of GAA players, managers and officials "could tip somebody over".

Mr Owens warned that just because online comments can appear innocuous, when you are in the eye of a social media storm "it gets personal".

The Wexford man added that the advice to referees from the GAA hierarchy in Croke Park is to keep away from social media.

He said: "The most important thing is that if you're after having a game, for the next two or three days, just don't follow anything online or anything like that. Don't be looking at stuff because there can be nasty stuff said about you and it can get personal."

Speaking about the psychologist that works with inter-county referees behind the scenes, he added: "He helps us in as many ways as possible, especially after a weekend game or whatever, if something controversial is after happening, you know, we're encouraged that he's only a phone call away, and just pick up the phone and he's there to talk to you."

The top-level referee has a sharp message for the trolls who are behind increasingly personal online abuse.

He said: "I'm an individual. You don't know what kind of a day I'm after having. You don't know what's going on in my life, my personal life, you don't know what's going on in my family's life or whatever.

"You mightn't mean to do what you're doing, but you know, something like that could tip somebody over. My advice is - just think before you write."