Council hits back in venue row

THE MUNSTER Council of the GAA issued a strongly-worded statement last night disassociating itself from suggestions that a decision made “behind closed doors without the knowledge of the Waterford GAA Executive” was at the root of the controversial proposal to play this year’s Munster hurling final in Cork.

There was surprise in Waterford GAA circles when it emerged last week that the county had agreed to play Cork in the Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, rather than Semple Stadium in Thurles, if both counties came through their respective semi-finals.

Though Semple Stadium was the original choice for the Munster final, last night’s statement pinpointed a Munster Council meeting of May 30 as the date when Páirc Uí Chaoimh was approved for the fixture by the Council’s Competitions Control Committee “following a strong and reasonable case being presented to it by Waterford GAA”.

The Munster Council statement makes it clear that from their perspective the Waterford GAA Executive was the body seeking to switch the game: “It was clear to the Council Officers that the request from Waterford to revisit the venue decision was considered and decided on by the Executive of Waterford GAA County Committee.”

The statement describes Cork GAA chiefs as “innocent parties” in the controversy: “Cork GAA did not initiate this proposal and agreed reluctantly to the original approach.”

The switch in venues met with strong opposition in Waterford however, and significantly, Waterford senior hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald was swift to distance himself from the furore after his side beat Clare on Monday to qualify for the final.

“The team management had absolutely nothing to do with that,” said Fitzgerald. “Never once did we want to talk about it or have it said and that is all I will say. We paid Clare the utmost respect and we would never ever do anything like that.”

The Munster Council “completely and emphatically” rejected the contention of the Chairman of Waterford GAA: “that this matter was not discussed by Waterford GAA Executive and Munster GAA Competitions Control Committee fully accepts the bona fide proposal by the Waterford delegate at the meeting when he made the proposal to change the venue on behalf of Waterford GAA Executive.

“This was substantiated in telephone conversations between members of the Waterford GAA Executive and Officers of the Munster Council.”

The matter is unlikely to come to an end here. The Munster Council statement goes on to call on the Waterford GAA Executive to explain their actions: “We expect the Waterford GAA Executive and in particular the Waterford chairman to clarify fully their role in this decision and also expect that any inference given that the Council acted secretly or in any way other than with propriety be withdrawn.”

The statement comes after an unhappy weekend for Munster GAA chiefs, with a small crowd turning out for the Munster SHC semi-final between Waterford and Clare on Bank Holiday Monday, and confusion as to whether extra-time or a replay would be necessary to separate Cork and Kerry in Sunday’s Munster SFC semi-final.

Meanwhile Waterford defender Aidan Kearney has rubbished claims made by TV pundit Michael Duignan that he was involved in a recent bust-up with manager Davy Fitzgerald.

During RTÉ’s coverage of last Monday’s Munster SHC semi-final against Clare, former Offaly player Duignan suggested Kearney and Fitzgerald had been at loggerheads.

Kearney was not named in the starting 15 but revealed that he was unable to be involved in any event because of a knee injury. Duignan said that he was led to believe that a dispute took place between Fitzgerald and Kearney but the player insisted last night that there is no truth in the rumours.

Kearney said: “That’s not true at all. I have no problem with Davy and I’m getting on great with him. I don’t know where this came from. It’s probably because I’m not playing but I’m injured as well with my knee. If I had a problem with Davy, I would say it straight out to him because that’s my style.”

Kearney, 26, added: “I’m going to Limerick to try and get the injury sorted. I fell two weeks ago and sprained my knee in training. It’s not healing at all so I just have to rest it. I tried it out before the match but I couldn’t turn on it.’’

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