Player support for sacked Offaly manager is gathering momentum

PLAYER backing for ousted Offaly football manager Paul O’Kelly has grown since he was controversially sacked on Tuesday night.

O'Kelly, a selector under Tommy Lyons, failed in his bid to be re-appointed after a secret ballot (38/24) at a meeting of the Offaly County Board.

Yesterday, former captain Finbarr Cullen voiced support for O'Kelly, an Edenderry club-mate. He said the dismissal and especially the circumstances under which it was carried out, was 'a sickener.' It was a particular blow, he felt, to the younger members of the panel, who had been developing under his management.

Cullen refused to speculate on the likelihood of the players taking a stand.

However, it's understood they will formally make their views known to the Board in the form of a letter, with team captain Cathal Daly canvassing the opinions of panel members.

In response to speculation that long-serving team members like Ciaran McManus might withdraw from the squad, Cullen admitted that this was a decision he faced 'either way.' "I am 31, going on 32 and I would be forced make a decision about my future in any case,'' he commented.

Two of O'Kelly's three selectors, Eddie Fleming and John Moran, had indicated beforehand that they would not be able to continue, for personal and business reasons. The third, Kevin Gavin, declared he was prepared to stay on.

Another likely casualty of the affair is Jim Buckley, the Board's Assistant Secretary, who was the liaison officer to the team, and has now handed in his resignation.

Paul O'Kelly, who said he knew he would be fired if he didn't resign, was critical of the whole process, describing it as a victory for 'politics and information management'.

Meanwhile, he Sligo County Board is close to naming a successor to Peter Forde, who had managed the county for close to three years.

Derry manager Eamonn Coleman is reportedly one of two candidates in the running. James Kearins, a former Sligo player and brother of former star Mickey Kearins, is believed to be the second candidate.

He was coach to the Bunnanadden team which won the 2000 county championship.

The Board has confirmed two candidates are in contention one local and one 'outsider' with experience at national level.

Chairman Joe Queenan, commenting that they were at 'a very sensitive stage of the process,' pointed out that they wished to appoint a manager who would be prepared to take charge at under-21 level over the next few years.

The GPA has revealed two of the country's biggest names rejected highly lucrative offers from a competing brand in order to support the arrangement between the Gaelic Players' Association and C&C Ireland on the launch of the brand Club Energise. DJ Carey, President of the GPA, and Peter Canavan, a high profile member and vocal supporter of the players' body since its inception, both declined very substantial sums.

Commenting on the matter, Chief Executive Dessie Farrell said: "Whilst the foundation of the Club Energise deal lies in its ability to generate funds for the association and the development of gaelic games at grass roots level, a fundamental component of the arrangement was the GPA's ability to engage its highest profile members to assist with promotion of the product. "Despite the fact that the offers made to DJ and Peter were prior to any contractual agreement with C&C, both players consulted the GPA and subsequently threw their full weight behind the Club Energise project.

"The implications of either player endorsing a competing product would have presented the GPA with an extremely sensitive and potentially disruptive issue at the time.

"However, DJ and Peter's altruistic approach towards the matter paved the way for formalisation of what is now acknowledged as a highly successful alliance.

"It is indicative of the character of both individuals that a very attractive financial offer, in fact multiples of what they will receive through the collective Club Energise deal, was rejected in favour of supporting a wider cause.

"The Club Energise deal will benefit hundreds of players through scholarship schemes, assist clubs with their own development programs and present commercial opportunity to some 200 players across the country over a ten year term."

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