Banner revolt gathers pace

THE Clare hurling crisis intensified over the weekend after the majority of players expressed a vote of no confidence in manager Mike McNamara and his backroom team.

Sources in the county last night claimed that the squad met on Sunday night in the wake of the county senior hurling championship final between Cratloe and Clonlara.

The meeting was timed so that many of those attending third level colleges and universities could attend before returning to their studies

Insiders say that all but one of the panel members favoured a change of management after disastrous league and championship campaigns this year.

Clare failed to win a game in the league and lost two championship outings before defeating Wexford in a relegation semi-final.

However McNamara, a selector when Clare won All-Ireland titles in 1995 and 1997, has another year at the helm and last week received the backing of the county board to plan for the 2010 season. The players sent a letter to the board in advance of that meeting at the West County Hotel. However, as it was unsigned it was not read out to delegates.

This move by the players is a huge blow to board chairman Michael O’Neill who expressed a desire to find a resolution with talks between all the parties.

Last night Clare PRO Syl O’Connor insisted that the board knew nothing about any meeting of the squad.

“Nothing official has come to the county board from the players or from any other party yet. I have heard nothing about any meeting of the players over the weekend. The only thing on the Clare county board agenda is when Mike McNamara addresses the board next week with his end of year report.”

Meanwhile the Galway SHC final scheduled for Sunday between All-Ireland champions Portumna and Loughrea has been called off.

The decision was taken yesterday amid uncertainty about whether or not Mullagh will take an appeal to a higher authority over the staging of their controversial semi-final to Loughrea which they lost.

They claim the game should be declared null and void as Galway Hurling Board chairman Miko Ryan, who resigned last week, was suspended when he presided over the fixtures committee which arranged the match.

The controversy could take a new twist this evening when four Mullagh players and two officials – including former All Star and RTÉ Sunday Game analyst Pete Finnerty – appear before a Hearings Committee of Galway Hurling Board in relation to incidents during and after their semi-final. The Competition Controls Committee of Galway Hurling Board has already proposed bans of 48 weeks on three players in relation to incidents which allegedly occurred at the end of their meeting with neighbours Loughrea. The players and the club have requested personal hearings and that will take place tonight.

The match ended in controversy when Loughrea were awarded a match-winning free in the dying seconds of injury-time which they converted to win by a point two weeks ago. Match referee Christy Helebert, who stated in his report that players struck him with their hurleys, had to remain on the field for about ten minutes before being escorted to his dressing-room by Gardaí.

The Galway CCC has proposed the minimum bans of 48 weeks on three players – former Galway senior squad member Conor Dervan, wing-back John Rafferty and Davey Glennon, an All-Ireland minor winner in September – but these suspensions could carry a maximum of 96 weeks.

A spokesperson for the Mullagh club said the players vehemently deny striking or assaulting the referee.

Cathal Hardiman, who was sent off during match, has been suspended for eight weeks with former Galway player Nigel Shaughnessy of Loughrea also hit with an eight weeks ban after being sent off in the same incident.

Two officials of the Mullagh club, David Glennon Snr, a father of minor star Davey, and former All Star Pete Finnerty, a selector, both face four-week bans for verbal abuse, while the Mullagh club has been fined €200.

A date for the county final has not been fixed as the appeals process could continue for several weeks with Mullagh considering bringing their case to the Croke Park Hearings Committee or the Disputes Resolution Authority.

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