McNulty survives board battering

Justin McNulty will continue as Laois manager despite serious reservations raised about his tactics at last night’s county board meeting in Portlaoise.

Following lengthy debate, the Armagh native’s appointment of Noel O’Reilly as selector was adopted in the wake of Sunday’s Leinster SFC preliminary round defeat to Longford.

O’Reilly, a Cavan native, had already been working with the backroom team but was drafted in as selector by McNulty in place of Portlaoise man John Mulligan who had stepped aside due to illness.

Initially, members of the county executive admitted they had no knowledge of Mullahoran man O’Reilly’s expertise when asked by a number of club delegates.

Barrowhouse delegate Alan Langton pointed out the consequences of not ratifying O’Reilly and it was generally agreed it was a reflection on McNulty’s management.

The management committee’s minutes, which included O’Reilly’s proposal, were eventually endorsed but were then followed by more exchanges about Sunday’s defeat to Longford.

Portarlington delegate Seamus Hunt, who blamed the management, asked all county delegates for their own opinions on Sunday’s performance.

While keen not to criticise the players, county chairman Brian Allen said he was bitterly disappointed with the performance in the second half.

Football chairman Gerry Kavanagh stated he had no explanation for the defeat but insisted everything that could be done to prepare the team was done.

Several executive members such as treasurer Martin Byrne and coaching officer Peter O’Neill raised issues with the style adopted by Laois in the second half, which they regarded as prevalent during Division 1 when Laois were relegated.

Leinster Council delegate Kieran Leavy said Laois’s second-half collapse was down to some “very poor management”.

A number of delegates questioned the defensive tactics adopted throughout the year and claimed it went against the natural style adopted by Laois.

Hunt expressed his opinion that McNulty, despite being an All-Ireland winning back, was unable to pick defenders and scoring forwards were not being selected in the team.

He also criticised the effectiveness of the incredible amount of training the Laois players had done in the build-up to Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, National Referees Committee chairman Pat McEnaney dismissed McNulty’s claims that Sunday’s match official Michael Duffy made a number of “hometown decisions”.

“We just deal with the issues,” he said. “When we go into a game it’s one team against the other. People will always throw opinions around but a referee has a clean sheet when he goes into a game.”

McEnaney also praised Duffy for making an accurate call on disallowing Laois’ late goal for a square ball offence.

He revealed inter-county referees had all been given medicals in Dublin last week.

“Michael Duffy correctly called that decision and it’s what I expect from my referees. It’s been a reasonably good start for us and that’s the type of thing I’m looking for from my team.

“We had a get together last Friday where we did the fitness tests and all the referees had full medicals. We had a seminar afterwards and the square ball was one of the things that came up.

“I need to get the message out there that we, the referees, are very much in favour of the rule. It was tried and tested two years ago and it was every bit successful.”

Gaelic Match Officials Association secretary Alan Nash slammed McNulty for suggesting referee Duffy was influenced by the Longford crowd.

Using the organisation’s Twitter account, he wrote: “For Justin McNulty to insinuate that there were “Home Town” decisions given against Laois is outrageous and should not be tolerated.

“The GAA cannot continue to allow managers to cast aspersions on the integrity of match officials after a game. This needs to be stamped out.

“The GAA need to defend referees from managers who make false accusations in the media knowing the referee cannot respond. When will Croke Park start to clamp down on this issue as it’s becoming more and more common for a losing manager to be critical of the ref.”

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