Mayo’s football panel will not be issuing an official response to extraordinary claims made by former co-managers Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes.
However, sources close to the panel are adamant that one of the allegations never happened at all, while another, it is insisted, was taken out of context. One player is even believed to be considering his future in the sport as a result of what was said about him by the ex-management team.
In an interview with the Irish Independent on Saturday, Connelly and Holmes spoke for the first time since their decision to step down in the wake of a no confidence vote taken by the players in September last year.
They levelled a series of charges against the current squad, namely the older O’Shea brothers, Seamus and Aidan, Alan Dillon and Rob Hennelly.
They stated that Seamus O’Shea requested his Breaffy clubmate and goalkeeper Hennelly be chosen ahead of David Clarke as he found his kick-outs more to his liking. They recall his approach was rejected, that it was management’s prerogative to pick the team and his to play.
Holmes said Aidan O’Shea was angry when Connelly and Holmes rebuffed his and Hennelly’s plans to appear in a TV programme, The Toughest (O’Shea later appeared in the documentary at the outset of Stephen Rochford’s reign).
“I contacted the producer of the programme and asked: ‘Why are you ringing Mayo footballers? Why aren’t you calling on Kerry or Dublin players - they’re the ones with All-Ireland medals’.
“He said they were looking for a particular type of character. I asked him not to contact Mayo players as our season had started and winning games was all that mattered to us. Aidan rang me later on and complained over what had happened. I explained to him that he would be in a lot more demand if he had an All-Ireland medal and that all his efforts should be focused on that goal.”
They further claimed O’Shea sent them an email prior to the 2015 All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal in which he wrote he and other players were surprised that an individual had been omitted from the match-day panel.
The pair also claimed Alan Dillon’s attitude towards them changed when he was not selected to start against Galway in last year’s Connacht semi-final. They further argue he challenged their team selection and queried why Andy Moran was chosen instead of him.
The nature of the squad’s 27-7 vote against them remaining in charge is also referenced. “We know five or six senior players voted for us so that meant that five or six of the new guys voted against us. How did they feel that standards dropped? How could they compare it with previous years when they weren’t there?” said Connelly. “One player said afterwards that he had never felt as pressurised as when the players met in Ballyheane to vote.”
Holmes mentioned a senior player who they believe voted in favour of them: “Then the heave happened and I rang him to ask him what had changed. He replied ‘nothing’. I said, ‘This is an injustice – what are you going to do about it?’ He said he’d have to stick by the majority decision.”
They recall the meeting with co-captains Keith Higgins and Cillian O’Connor who broke the news to them of the vote. “We asked if all the players were present and were told that seven were missing but they had voted online.
Connelly recounted: “I said, so you’re prepared to destroy our reputations and not give us any reason whatsoever. Keith replied that he wasn’t in a position to do that.”
Holmes and Connelly also highlight the players wanted a say in the appointment of their successors. They cite a passage from their letter to the county board in which it is said “the experience and knowledge gained by the players from competing at the highest level in this sport over five years will be an invaluable asset to the county board in selecting a management team.”
The interview followed one with former Mayo player Tom Cunniffe in the same paper earlier this month. The defender, who spent this year travelling abroad, said he regretted the panel’s decision to remove the management duo.
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