Tipperary turmoil puts Fermanagh game in doubt

TIPPERARY’S participation in Saturday’s Bank of Ireland first-round qualifier game against Fermanagh in Thurles was cast into doubt last night.

With the management team standing down after their failure to have a divisional hurling championship game involving one of their players postponed, it was not clear if the players would be prepared to go ahead with the game.

In the meantime, GAA officials are adamant that the game will be played as planned while opponents Fermanagh are planning on the basis that it will.

"At this stage the All-Ireland qualifier is going ahead as scheduled at Semple Stadium. The only option for Tipperary is to request a postponement of the game but it is highly unlikely it would be granted at this late stage," a Croke Park spokesperson said last night.

"There is no precedent for it. This is an internal issue within Tipperary," he said.

Fermanagh are travelling regardless of the troubled situation in the Premier County. "Croke Park confirmed to us earlier this morning that the game is scheduled for Saturday evening in Semple Stadium at 4.30pm," Tom Boyle, the Fermanagh county secretary said yesterday.

"We have been given a fixture and we will fulfill it. It is a long, long way and we will keep focused. We are putting the final preparations on our travel plans.

"Barry Owens went off with an ankle injury in the Tyrone game and there is still a doubt about him, otherwise all is well."

And his thoughts on the row in the Premier County: "That is a domestic issue for Tipperary and it has nothing to do with us."

Trouble has been brewing in Tipperary since team manager Andy Shorthall indicated last week that he would take a strong stand if the Mid-Division senior hurling championship game between Loughmore-Castleiney and Thurles Sarsfields went ahead last night (which it did, incidentally at The Ragg, with Loughmore winning 2-10 to 0-9).

He and his two selectors, Jim Cahill and Mick Byrnes, promptly resigned when their request to have the game deferred was turned down.

However, on Monday they agreed to hold off their decision for 24 hours pending a meeting of the Mid-Board on Tuesday evening.

However, the board's games committee decided by secret ballot not to agree to a postponement. This led to the football management walking away.

Under the direction of Laois-born Andy Shorthall, Tipperary enjoyed a fairly successful League campaign. And, after running Limerick close in the first round of the Munster championship, were hoping for a good run in the qualifiers. Shorthall described his position as "untenable" following the decision to allow the club game to go ahead, and said that he was sorry to be leaving under such circumstances.

Two members of the Tipp team which played Limerick were involved in last night's game, wing-forward Micheal Webster, a member of the Loughmore club and another of their players, Tom King, who had been called into the panel in the last few weeks, also lined out.

County Board chairman Donal Shanahan accepted the management's resignation "with regret" and paid tribute to the three for the work they had done since taking over last November.

Interestingly, both clubs wanted last night's game to be played as scheduled. Loughmore have players represented on all of the Tipperary inter-county panels except minor hurling and a postponement of the game would have major repercussions for other fixtures.

County Board PRO Ed Donnelly said that while they had been asked by the football management to call off the game, they didn't have the power to do so. That was the sole preserve of the Mid-Tipperary Board.

lWestmeath are to pursue an appeal against the suspension imposed on midfielder Rory O'Connell by the GAC in mid-week. O'Connell was given a personal hearing by the committee on Monday but they imposed a twelve weeks term on him for allegedly stamping on Offaly's Pascal Kellaghan in the Leinster championship game in Croke Park on May 23. Confirming that there would be an appeal, Football Board chairman Denis Coyne said they were "hopeful" of the suspension being reduced.

It will date from the day of the game, which means that without a reduction, he will be out of action until midnight on August 14 by which time all four All-Ireland quarter-final games will have been played.

Tipperary hurler Paul Kelly (starting at left half-forward) scored 2-7 from play for Mullinahone in their county championship win over Cashel last night.

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