When the sudden and tragic news that Limerick hurling referee Shane Hourigan had been killed in a car accident early yesterday morning reached GAA president Liam O'Neill he seemed lost for words.
"It's an absolute tragedy, one of those tragedies that really does hit everyone," said O'Neill. "Shane Hourigan would have been very well known to us and a lot of people within the GAA, and to think he was on referee duty only last Sunday afternoon makes it harder to believe."
O'Neill later extended his sympathies and those of the Association to the Hourigan family – including his wife Marie, son Shane, mother Ellen, his immediate family and wide circle of friends.
He also described Hourigan, aged just 40, as “one of the Association’s most promising up-and-coming hurling referees” and “highly respected by his peers”.
A member of the St Mary’s Seán Finn’s club in Rathkeale, Hourigan had been a member of the National Hurling Referees panel for three years.
His involvement saw him referee the 2012 Connacht Intermediate and Munster senior club finals, and last year he referred the All-Ireland intermediate club final, the Allianz Hurling League Division Two final, the Munster under-21 final, and the All-Ireland minor semi-final and All-Ireland Colleges hurling final.
On Sunday afternoon, in what turned out to be his final match as a referee, Hourigan took charge of the All-Ireland intermediate club semi-final between Rower Inistioge of Kilkenny and Clooney Gaels of Antrim, at Páirc Tailteann, Navan.
He then lost his life in the early hours of yesterday morning, following a two-car collision at Reens Pike, just outside Limerick, just before 7am.
The driver of the other car was taken to the Mid Western Regional Hospital where he was treated for injuries.
The GAA president has also extended his sympathies and those of the Association as a whole to the family of Barry Nash from Clare, a young All-Ireland minor handball champion, who was killed in a separate car accident yesterday.