Mayo ladies row: Twists and turns in the row that tore a team apart

The ongoing Mayo ladies football row, which saw eight members of the Carnacon club withdraw from the Mayo panel, has brought claim and counter-claim from the players, manager Peter Leahy and the Mayo LGFA, which has backed the manager at all times.

Mayo ladies row: Twists and turns in the row that tore a team apart

The ongoing Mayo ladies football row, which saw eight members of the Carnacon club withdraw from the Mayo panel, has brought claim and counter-claim from the players, manager Peter Leahy and the Mayo LGFA, which has backed the manager at all times.

Eoghan Cormican pieces together the chronology of a dispute that has caused 12 players to walk away from inter-county football and torn a team apart.

2017

July 2

Galway beat Mayo by 3-12 to 1-8 in the Connacht final. In the wake of this result, Peter Leahy is drafted into the Mayo management team.

September 24

Mayo fall to Dublin in the All-Ireland final on a 4-11 to 0-11 scoreline. Leahy, on The GAA Hour podcast last week, claimed, incorrectly, it was the same 15 players who started each match after he came in. “The key for me was to develop a squad. You won’t win an All-Ireland with 15 players,” said Leahy.

October 5

Frank Browne steps down as Mayo manager after three years at the helm.

November 25

Peter Leahy is appointed Mayo manager.

December 3

Carnacon win a sixth All-Ireland club title. Staunton headed for Sydney the day after the club final victory over Mourneabbey to begin a four-month stint as a professional Aussie Rules player with the Greater Western Sydney Giants. She says she’ll make a call on her Mayo future upon returning home.

2018

January 12

Captain Sarah Tierney attends her first training of 2018. Mid-session, Tierney remarks to Leahy, “Jesus Peter, is it going to be all running tonight, are we going to do any football?”

During the press conference called by the departed 12 players on Monday night last, Tierney said her comment was not intended to be “malicious”.

The day after this particular session, she alleged, “I received a phone call from Peter about the comment I made. He basically attacked me. He said he didn’t give an eff how many All-Stars I had or what name I had made for myself in football, that he was the manager and what he says, goes”.

January

Speaking last Monday, midfielder Fiona McHale contended Leahy was ringing players in January and allegedly telling them it wouldn’t be the Cora show in 2018.

April 18

With Cora having returned from Australia, Leahy says the ball is in her court with regard to returning to the Mayo camp.

The way that it’s been left between me and Cora and the way it is for anyone involved in Mayo, if there’s a player out there who’s capable and good enough to be on the Mayo panel, all they’ve to do is pick up the phone and ring me and they’ll be brought in.

May 6

Mayo again come up short to Dublin, this time in the Division 1 league final.

May (unknown date)

Mayo training weekend on Clare Island. Leahy told the GAA Hour: “We asked the girls to write down the pluses and minuses for the year. The big thing that came back to us was that girls felt it’s not your name, it’s not the club you come from, it’s if you do work hard enough, you’ll get a chance.

“Girls felt they were getting a chance to shine.”

May 30

Training in Rochfortbridge, Westmeath. Sarah Tierney raises issues surrounding poor communication in the Mayo defence to Leahy, proposes getting in a former player to guest coach.

June 1

Tierney claims Leahy gave her the “curly finger” before training, the pair spoke away from the rest of the squad.

I have never felt so intimidated in all my life. He basically said I was performing absolutely shite and the reason I was so distracted at training the previous night is because I was so caught up about going to him with this suggestion of bringing this guest player in.

June 8

After a challenge game against Roscommon, one player, according to Sarah Tierney, was "visibly upset" in a car at the venue where the game took place. Tierney claims "Peter had mistreated this player, excluded the player from the team that evening and told her she wouldn’t be making Connacht final squad".

June, one week before the Connacht final

Selector Denise McDonagh, one of two backroom members who would subsequently depart, suggests to the rest of management they need to look “at a contingency plan” if two players, who were carrying knocks, weren’t available for the Galway game. McDonagh alleged: “[Peter] aggressively lifted the gearbag off the bench, threw it on the ground and asked, let’s hear your bright ideas. I suggested two alternative players. The manager’s reaction was to ask me was I blind, stupid, or both?”

June 24

Mayo lose the Connacht final by 0-17 to 1-12. Sarah Rowe and Grace Kelly are management’s designated free-takers, yet Cora takes responsibility for certain dead-ball efforts.

Leahy admitted it obviously wasn’t made sufficiently clear to Cora who the free-takers were.

If someone comes to me and says it wasn’t a clear message, then I have to take that on board that I didn’t make that clear to her.

Management hold a meeting after the Connacht final where Denise McDonagh wants discussed “the lack of transparency, communication, and respect, both for people within management and the player unit”.

June 30

Mayo players individually meet with Peter Leahy, the team’s liaison officer and another member of management.

“Some of the players weren’t happy with my team selection. My management have agreed on every selection we have done,” Leahy insisted.

July 3

Management meet with the eight Carnacon players and Sarah Tierney. Leahy maintains it was a “feelings situation”, that telling a player she would be used as an impact sub, rather than a starter, was “hurting her feelings”. According to Fiona McHale, Leahy denied telling Carnacon’s Amy Dowling that Cora was a bad influence on her. Two members of management, McHale added, confirmed Leahy had said as much to Dowling.

July 5

Carnacon secretary Beatrice Casey rings Leahy to tell him the eight Carnacon players are withdrawing from the panel. The Mayo manager immediately informs the county chairperson.

The younger members of the Carnacon eight did not feel comfortable ringing Leahy to tell him they were pulling out of the squad so that is why Carnacon secretary rang Leahy on behalf of all eight.

July 6

Sarah Tierney organises a meeting of the remaining panellists for the following day.

July 7

The players meet at Breaffy. Tierney claims 20 players attended the meeting, Leahy says the figure was only 12.

Leahy’s version of this meeting is that Tierney and another player put up on a board, you either pick Peter Leahy or us and we are going to walk away if he stays. The girls refused to vote, so Tierney walked away. Another player, added Leahy, subsequently walked away for personal reasons and sent a message where she wrote, “you were a brilliant management”.

Tierney claims one person did suggest Leahy be removed. “That person is still in the panel. It was equally discussed Peter would stay on. We agreed to have a meeting on Sunday, where everyone was present, Carnacon and all. That meeting was pulled by the county board and a number of players who were not at Saturday’s meeting. I felt I had tried my hardest to get everyone into the one room. I felt I had no other option to step away.”

July 8

Sarah Tierney and Orla Conlon remove themselves from Mayo squad.

County board meet with Carnacon players. The meeting lasts two hours.

July 10

Mayo county board attend training and inform players of their support for Leahy. “Everything I had told [the board] was identical to what they heard from the Carnacon girls. They then backed me,” said Leahy.

Selectors Michael McHale and Denise McDonagh, along with two further players, leave the squad.

July 11

Three days before the county’s All-Ireland series opener against Cavan, the departing group of 12 release a statement citing “player welfare issues” as their reason for leaving. A barrage of statements and rebuttals follows.

July 18

During mediation, players ask for a second mediator to be brought in, but claimed this was not allowed. Mediation fails to bring about a resolution.

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