Leahy: Because I was a man, I was left out in the cold

Mayo Ladies football manager Peter Leahy has accused the Women’s Gaelic Players Association (WGPA) of being “biased” and “misleading”, saying that they released a statement against the wishes of some members during last summer’s public spat in the county.

Mayo manager Peter Leahy with the Division 1 trophy: ‘I’m only the manager; your county is everything, and if you want to play for your county you play for them, end of story.’

Twelve of the Mayo panel walked away from Leahy’s squad after their Connacht final defeat to Galway, and, through a WGPA statement, cited “player welfare issues” as the reason for their departure.

Leahy claims the players’ union went against the wishes of some of their members to remain silent on the issue, and instead released a statement in support of the other players who had left the Mayo squad.

“The WGPA chose to put an article in the paper stating the reasons the girls left, after being asked not to do it by our players who were remaining and who were members of their organisation,” said Leahy.

“One of the players who left (was) on the executive of the WGPA. It was completely and utterly misleading what they put in the paper and it was done for a reason: It was done to embarrass me into walking away. I won’t be intimidated.

If I did something wrong I would have been gone like a shot.

Leahy was at Croke Park yesterday to launch the Lidl National Football League, and admitted he was disappointed with the LGFA’s role in the fallout. He felt the sport’s governing body should have stepped in to resolve the unrest, but said he was concerned the row might result in male managers walking away from the game.

“There should have been a meeting called between players, management, the LGFA, Mayo LGFA and Connacht if necessary and for us to get into a room and get all the facts out. It could have been shut off there and then.

“The LGFA then should have said: ‘We would not allow male managers to have innuendos like this to come out against them. Peter Leahy has done nothing untoward.’

“The whole thing would have been over in a week. It dragged on and allowed the media to get involved. The media love a story.

“Headquarters in LGFA had a huge opportunity and I never got one phone call from anyone in the LGFA.

“I feel because I was a man I was left out in the cold. I genuinely believe the LGFA have missed out here. They should not allow this to happen to any other man. In my opinion, it wouldn’t happen if I was a female manager. It’s impossible at the moment. I think there could be more and more men leaving the LGFA because of what has happened to me.”

Leahy and his squad open their Lidl Division 1 league campaign with a home clash against Tipperary in Swinford on Sunday. They continue to prepare for 2019 without all 12 of the players who left last year, but Leahy has offered an olive branch, and says the door remains open for anyone who wants to return.

I was at a Mayo County Board meeting at which all the delegates were at it from each club. I made them all aware that I don’t hold grudges and that all of those players who left are entitled to play for their county.

“I’m only the manager; your county is everything, and if you want to play for your county you play for them, end of story.

“The door was opened for them but none of them chose to come back. There has been no contact from them whatsoever.

“I told them that the clubs could ring me and we’d bring them back in. You don’t have to like a manager, but when you make a play to try and get rid of a manager and you put innuendos out that are quite hurtful and quite deceitful, it comes down to the fact that maybe you can’t save face and come back in situations like that.

“But I don’t think that’s a good enough reason not to play for your county. If you want to, you should be big enough to say: ‘Listen, I made mistake’, or ‘Maybe I played it our wrong’ or whatever — let’s just get on with it.

“Life is hard in general so if you sit there and whinge and cry you’ll never get forward.

“I would take it as an opportunity, we have done that in Mayo LGFA, to get our underage players ready quicker. We have a process in place. Maybe it’s the kick in the backside we needed.”

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