Players launch blistering attack on 'failures' of Offaly board

THE Offaly senior footballers last night launched a withering attack on the competence of their own board, calling for a major change of attitude and approach from the county executive.

The panel held a meeting on Wednesday evening that ran on late into the night. The fruits of that was yesterday's no-holds-barred 17-point statement detailing specific instances where they felt the county board had let them down.

Dealing with matters ranging from training facilities (or lack of), petty wrangles over playing and training gear and a lack of finance for crucial support staff, the players' statement also re-affirmed the panel's support for Gerry Fahy and his outgoing selectors.

Perhaps the most serious accusation is the claim that a number of players burdened with heavy costs due to serious injuries had reimbursements from the county board delayed for a number of months.

One player had been informed he would not be reimbursed until he returned his jersey, which apparently had been removed by hospital staff as he underwent treatment.

The panel was also hampered this season by the lack of a permanent training facility, which they claim led to problems with after-training meals and showers. Players were sometimes texted hours before training sessions to inform them where to turn up that night.

On the final morning of one training weekend in Limerick, the panel was forced to tog out in a car park. No shower facilities were available and no meal was provided, leaving the squad facing the journey home without food. Two training weekends also had to be partly funded by the players, the statement went on, and on one occasion the management paid the remaining costs.

Unlike the vast majority of county teams, the Offaly footballers did not have a chartered physiotherapist attending all training sessions and games, while other back-up staff who were being paid by private contributions had to be let go when these funds ran out.

One supporter apparently offered a sponsored van to the team to transport training gear and ice baths to training sessions. According to the statement, this was refused by the county board who instead instructed the county underage development coach to undertake this task, thus impinging on his coaching time.

The list of grievances is extremely similar both in tone and content to that which the Cork hurlers aired only two years ago and members of this year's All-Ireland winning hurling squad were consulted earlier this week by their footballing counterparts in Offaly before the statement was released.

As bad as some of the above complaints seem, it is some of the less important points that paint an even grimmer picture.

For example, prior to the Leinster championship game with Westmeath, the players say county chairman Tommy Byrne instructed them not to swap jerseys with their opponents at full-time. This at a time when their focus was on the biggest game of the year.

"We are extremely anxious to resolve the impasse which has arisen but this cannot be done without a major change of approach and attitude by the County Board," the statement read.

The panel also complained that there was a lack of communication between the players and the board. Monthly liaisons between the two parties were agreed at the end of 2003 but never actually took place. A Players' Committee was due to discuss the season just gone with the county board, but the meeting never took place.

"It was not our wish to have our grievances aired through these channels but unfortunately our requests for meetings with the Offaly county board were not accepted.

"In our opinion, Offaly county football teams and managements at all levels are subjected to similar poor treatment and we believe it's absolutely imperative that the County Board face up to the stark reality that exists.

"We would like to stress that the problems as outlined below have been ongoing for several seasons but have never been resolved, despite pressure being brought on the Board.

"It's clear that unless some drastic action is taken at County Board level, it will not be easy to find a resolution to this unfortunate situation. We cannot envisage ourselves returning under the conditions we have had to endure. The ball is now firmly in the County Board's court as is the resolution to this unfortunate impasse."

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