O'Neill slams Cooney critics

GAA president-elect Liam O'Neill has offered a strong defence of Christy Cooney, slamming those who have been critical of the GAA president in recent days.

GAA president-elect Liam O'Neill has offered a strong defence of Christy Cooney, slamming those who have been critical of the GAA president in recent days.

O'Neill's comments come in the wake of criticism from former Kilkenny hurling captain Eddie O'Connor and ex-Donegal footballer Brendan Devenney.

Both men rubbished Cooney's comments in his address to GAA Congress about payments to managers being a "cancer" in the association.

They felt Cooney's thoughts on manager payments were ironic given the salary that he commands from the GAA during his term of office.

Presently, the salary of the GAA president is linked to earnings in their previous job.

"I think the comments made this week were outrageous," admitted O’Neill, who was speaking at a Croke Park function to honour the British Universities GAA All-Star teams.

"It is unfair to denigrate people in public and it is something that doesn't sit easy with any of us who are involved in the association.

"Christy has done great work. I didn't like the terms used and I wish people could be kinder to one another.

"You can argue the points of an issue, but I think we should all respect each other. That goes for whether people like me have difficulty with managers who get paid.

"I still respect them and I would never use the type of language that was used by people this week about our President.

"The position that I aspire to hold in a year's time is far bigger than any of us. I will be the 37th president - 36 people so far have held that office and have held it with great dignity.

"I wish that our members and supporters and people who comment on the organisation would uphold the dignity of the office and refrain from using pejorative terms if at all possible."

O'Neill also moved to clarify recent newspaper reports which stated that he did not like "outside" managers taking charge of inter-county teams.

"One journalist unfortunately tied me into a comment. I made a comment that I don't like outside managers who get paid and that was taken as a quote that I don't like outside managers," he said.

"I think some of the most wonderful innovations in Gaelic games have come about because of outside managers.

"We all need look no further than the Offaly resurgence in the 1980s brought about by Dermot Healy of Kilkenny who was certainly anything other than a person who was interested in money.

"He came up to Offaly and George Leahy was with Laois at the same time, all offering their services for legitimate expenses only and I would salute those two gentlemen.

"I know plenty of clubs have people coming from outside who aren't taking expenses and again I salute them the same way anyone who works voluntarily for this wonderful organisation."

He added: "My comments were directed at those who come and take money from club and counties, hard-earned gathered money.

"It just jars those people. But the majority of managers are wonderful and they do a great job and whether we agree or disagree with them, every team needs a manager and somebody has to do it."

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