League of Ireland ref Anthony Buttimer opens up about his battle with depression

A workaholic, who refused to retire from officiating when he had the chance, the Togher native was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
League of Ireland ref Anthony Buttimer opens up about his battle with depression

Stanley Aborah of Waterford is helped back to his feet by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

FORMER League of Ireland referee Anthony Buttimer had struggled for years before being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder last year. 

Buttimer, who is now retired from refereeing, after being a referee in League of Ireland for 25 years, believed that he was struggling with depression and is grateful to be now able to properly manage the disorder.

“I was told I had bipolar at Christmas time. I had been struggling for around 15 years before that, but I put it down to more with to do with depression. I spent time in hospital before being diagnosed and now that I know what I’m dealing with, I take medication and it has been a great help."

“It made sense when I had read all the information after I had come out of hospital. I saw a cognitive behavioural therapist, a work behavioural therapist and an occupational therapist. 

"It actually makes sense now thinking about my life. What I had been doing and now these are the symptoms of it.

“I was working on average between 80 and 90 hours a week. I’m self-employed. I opened my first business when I was 21, a butcher shop. 

"I worked six days a week. I never had a tea break. I did paperwork on a Sunday. I did local football on a Saturday. I trained twice a week. I did League of Ireland on Sunday at the time, because it was only three o’clock kick-offs on a Sunday back then. 

"Then, I started doing League of Ireland on a Friday night and I was a FIFA referee. So, I never stopped.

Darren Meenan, third from left, Dundalk, is shown a straight red card and sent off by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Darren Meenan, third from left, Dundalk, is shown a straight red card and sent off by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

"My body broke down. There’s a retirement age at 47 for League of Ireland referees. I refused to take that but now, I’m 56, my body couldn’t do it anymore, it just wasn’t able. 

I was struggling all along with what I thought was depression and last year I failed a fitness test for the first time. I knew it was because I wasn’t feeling myself. 

"Then, when I came out of hospital, I questioned ‘do I really need to be putting my body through all of this?’ I’d 25 years in the league. I was six years as a FIFA referee. I’d done it all. I did the FAI Cup Final, between Bohs and Derry.

“I was a League of Ireland referee. I can’t go any higher than that in Ireland. I was an Irish referee. 

"I was never going to be doing a World Cup final. It’s not like, I was going to have another 10 years. So, at 56, I just thought, there was no point in putting my body through it."

The Cork native would describe himself as a competitive person, not just in sport but in business, and that this has been evident also in his family.

“I could go out on the pitch and race every member of Cork City from goal line to goal line in one go. Even though I’m 56, I would be trying my best to win because I am competitive. 

"Now I might be sore and sick afterwards, but I would be trying to come first. I would be running my heart out and that’s what I’ve been doing all of my life.

Tramore's Darren Healy saves a penalty against Casement Celtic, watched by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Tramore's Darren Healy saves a penalty against Casement Celtic, watched by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“My family is from Togher originally. My brother [Paul Buttimer] boxed in the Olympics. We ran the airport hills when we were kids. He boxed in Barcelona Olympics in 1992. 

"He got injured coming down the steps of the plane when they landed. He damaged his knee, which meant he wasn’t able to box for about four or five days when he was over there. He was only about to go on a bike. So, he represented Ireland.

“My young fella is the same. My young fella plays hurling and football with our village. He plays hurling, football and rugby with his college in Tralee. 

"Everything is about winning for him. He was trained like that with me. It’s competitive nature.

“I would consider myself to be highly intelligent business-wise. I was managing butcher shops since the time I was 17 years of age. I have the business brain.

I’ve played chess competitively. Denis Irwin was in my class in school. We played chess together for years. 

"We represented the school. We were in the Community Games. We were good at what we did. If we weren’t good at it, we stopped it and did something else."

Village United captain Howard Coakley (right) welcomes Tower FC's captain Dave Gaffney watched by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Barry Peelo.
Village United captain Howard Coakley (right) welcomes Tower FC's captain Dave Gaffney watched by referee Anthony Buttimer. Picture: Barry Peelo.

Apart from refereeing, Buttimer has spent most of his career away from football working in a butchers. Recently, the former League of Ireland referee has moved into the distribution industry of the business world.

“I still fall in for a butchers the odd occasion if they are stuck. I have a cake distribution company now. I distribute cakes for a bakery in Newbridge in Kildare called Comerford. 

"So, I deliver for them now. I own the agency. I used to go up to Kildare and load my van just to go out to work but I have a depot in Kanturk. I’m living in Kanturk. 

"I get 12-15 pallets down and I would sell away for the week then.

“But, I’m not in it for money anymore. I don’t need it. I sold my business 14 years ago at the height of the boom. 

"I’m working now to keep myself occupied. I’ve no major bills to pay."

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more