GALWAY U21 boss Anthony Cunningham has branded the conduct of GAA President Christy Cooney and the Central Competitions Control Committee as ‘dictatorial’ in selecting Semple Stadium to host Saturday’s All-Ireland U21 final.
Cunningham also revealed that team management were in favour of boycotting the fixture against Tipperary but decided against such action due to the possibility of heavy suspensions for players.
He blasted: “It’s very disappointing, the dictatorial stance from Croke Park, from senior management down, the president to the CCCC. We haven’t got a fair hearing in Galway and everyone knows that. Last Sunday was a defining diktat from Croke Park, and it was a diktat, that the match would be in Thurles.
“They were carrying out loads of different ways to have this issue debated, and that didn’t happen in a just way. There hasn’t been fairness and honesty in this.
“Our feeling through the hurling board was that we shouldn’t fulfil the fixture in Thurles. There should have been an alternative venue and every genuine hurling guy in Galway and across the country would recognise that was valid. There are larger things at play here. That would lead to further problems with Galway and suspensions, and we’ve been asked by the hurling board to play the match.”
Cunningham believes the GAA administration have erred in planning to play future U21 finals in Thurles and revealed the depth of annoyance in Galway over the decision.
“They have taken the decision that the finals are in Thurles for the next while but I think they made a mistake. The proviso should have been that if it was Tipperary in the final, there should have been an alternative venue chosen.
“But we would have to say that we are very disappointed. We’re very annoyed that the fixture is in Thurles, playing a home team in their home ground. It’s unprecedented that a national final is played in a home venue of a team.”
Christy Cooney insisted Director-General Páraic Duffy had not misled Galway officials when they met last Friday in Athlone and defended the CCCC’s handling of the situation.
“I wasn’t at the meeting, but it is my understanding that Páraic Duffy was very clear on our position. I hope that people didn’t read too much into that. The CCCC did the job and I would stand over that. Seamus Woods is a top class chairman, very articulate about the way he does his business. We have a very good committee there. I have no questions about the integrity of the CCCC. They picked the best venue for the game.
“It’s just the rub of the green that it’s in Thurles. I let it be known on Monday that I think it’s going to be the venue for a lot of U21 finals if we decide not to play them in Croke Park. We have two covered stands, we don’t know what’s the weather going to be like and it’s great that the spectators are going to have comfort. I think it’s a perfect venue, it is central to nearly every hurling county so it’s a perfect venue with excellent accommodation. I can understand (Galway’s view), but we have to do what’s in the best interests of the association.”
Cunningham insists that the issue has not impinged on Galway’s preparations for the final and the management deliberately opted to entrust county hurling board officials with the responsibility to appeal the decision.
“It hasn’t affected us in our preparations. We’ve trained very hard to win this match. We let the administrators handle it. We purposely stayed out of the media and out of the limelight because it’s their job to administer. The administration in Galway have looked at every avenue possible to have this debated in a proper manner.
“There will be no excuses and it won’t get into guys’ heads. We have no problem with Tipperary whatsoever in this debate. Our congratulations go to them, to Liam Sheedy and to all the players involved last Sunday, and the Tipperary U21 team are here on merit.”
Cunningham also revealed that attacker Richie Cummins has shaken off an ankle injury and will be fit for Saturday’s decider.
Cummins was withdrawn at half-time of the semi-final victory over Dublin but has responded well to treatment.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved