Helen O’Rourke accuses ex-Galway manager Tim Rabbitt of attempt 'to destroy integrity of LGFA'

Galway were displeased with the seven minutes they had to conduct their warm-up after the controversial All-Ireland semi-final switch
Helen O’Rourke accuses ex-Galway manager Tim Rabbitt of attempt 'to destroy integrity of LGFA'

Helen O'Rourke, LGFA CEO. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

LGFA CEO Helen O’Rourke has accused former Galway manager Tim Rabbitt of attempting "to destroy the integrity of the Association and the people involved".

O’Rourke’s annual report ahead of this weekend’s LGFA Congress deals in great detail with events surrounding the December 6 All-Ireland semi-final between Cork and Galway, a fixture that was moved from Parnell Park to Croke Park on the morning of the game and had its throw-in time brought forward from 1.30pm to 1pm.

Galway were displeased with the seven minutes they were afforded to conduct their warm-up prior to the semi-final getting underway, with Rabbitt expressing regret afterwards that he did not pull his players from the field immediately prior to throw-in.

The now-departed Galway manager also remarked after the semi-final that “the ladies game is probably one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, but we don’t seem to have the officialdom in the Association that can keep pace with it and to bring the professionalism that is required”.

O’Rourke, addressing the All-Ireland semi-final controversy for the first time, said it was “unfortunate” that both Cork and Galway were “inconvenienced in terms of their pre-match preparations”.

She described the subsequent media fallout as “severe”.

“The Galway manager was particularly aggrieved in his post-match comments and his dealings with the media over the coming days, by not having enough time available to them to warm up,” she wrote.

Though she doesn't mention Rabbitt by name, O'Rourke, further on in her report, added: “It is regrettable that a manager who was so gracious earlier in the day for the efforts that were made to have the game played and who had his requests for additional time met would then turn and try to destroy the integrity of the Association and the people involved after the game.” 

The LGFA CEO also addressed the interview given by LGFA president Marie Hickey on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the day after the All-Ireland semi-final. During the interview, Hickey said Galway could have enjoyed a longer warm-up than seven minutes “had they not spent so much time in the dressing room” after arriving at Croke Park.

“Galway arrived to Croke Park at 12.30pm and they then proceeded to the dressing-room, so they spent quite a bit of time in the dressing room and then emerged out onto the pitch. They would have had the opportunity to get out onto the pitch earlier had they not spent so much time in the dressing room,” Hickey told RTÉ Radio 1.

O’Rourke said “it will have saddened Marie that people would have taken offence to her interview, where a couple of comments in a lengthy piece were isolated and used to portray an inaccurate picture”.

“Let me make it quite clear that there is nobody who cares more about or is more invested in the health and wellbeing of our players than Marie.” 

Reflecting on the semi-final, O’Rourke said lessons will be learned.

“We accept, as we did at the time, that moving a fixture of that magnitude at such short notice was not an ideal situation for the teams involved.

“We have since thoroughly reviewed events on the day in question and, of course, we will learn lessons. I would hope that a similar situation does not arise again. When you consider how well our championships were run in an overall context, with no games postponed due to Covid-19 or weather conditions, it’s regrettable that many people will remember Championship 2020 for the events of 6th December.

“I would like to state categorically that, at all times, we endeavour to act in the best interests of players and mentors. Moving the game from Parnell Park was a health and safety decision, while we and the teams involved felt it was the better option to proceed with the game on the day at Croke Park, a wonderful venue, rather than postpone and have Cork or Galway facing a scenario where they would have to play a refixed All-Ireland semi-final a week before lining out in the TG4 All-Ireland Final.”

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