Wallace becomes first casualty of Championship

The Offaly County Board management committee last night voted to remove Stephen Wallace as manager of the senior footballers.

Stephen Wallace

Following a review, members of the group decided to part ways with the Kerry native and his management team following this past weekend’s Leinster SFC first-round defeat to Wicklow.

We have relieved Stephen Wallace of his duties,” county chairman Tommy Byrne told the Irish Examiner. “It was no easy decision. There isn’t like that when it comes to management, but the committee made the decision.

An official statement from the Offaly board confirmed the news and revealed they would immediately begin the search for a manager to take charge for their first-round qualifier next month: “Following a meeting of Coiste Bainisti Uibh Fhaili on Wednesday 16th May 2018, the decision was made that Stephen Wallace should not continue as Manager of the Offaly Senior Football Team. An Interim Management Team will be appointed as soon as possible.”

The management committee’s decision came as no surprise after the fallout from their Leinster SFC exit. Despite Offaly avoiding relegation from Division 3, there had been speculation of unrest in the camp prior to last weekend, while Wallace’s recent eight-week suspension for his involvement in an altercation in a Kerry club game didn’t help his cause.

However, speaking to the Offaly Express yesterday, Offaly selector Paul Mollen said he was shocked at the criticism aimed at the management team by Irish Examiner columnist Brian Gavin, who had said on Midlands Radio 3 and the We Are Offaly podcast that the positions of Wallace and his assistants were untenable.

Gavin also questioned why Ruairí McNamee was in the panel just three weeks back from Australia, but Mollen argued: “Does he (Gavin) even know the detail of the contact that had taken place between Billy Sheehan, Stephen Wallace, and that man in Australia and the work being done for months before he came back? He was returning GPS stats, training and all the rest while in contact with the camp for months beforehand.”

Mollen, the only Offaly native in the management team, insisted Seán Pender was replaced on the basis of medical advice in order to avoid serious long-term injury. He also denied there was any commotion at half-time during the game.

Regarding Gavin’s claim about a player heave, he said: “I’m finding it hard to fathom that this [criticism], as far as I can see, is coming from one guy (Gavin) and wherever his information is coming from.”

Mollen added: “I’ve been involved in a lot of county and club teams through the years, but I’ve never seen anything like the attention to detail in the set-up since Stephen Wallace, Billy Sheehan, and Brendan Kealy came in.

Last night on Twitter, Anton Sullivan posted a photograph of the footballers at training with the caption: “Disappointed after Sunday but glad to be back at it tonight.” The tweet was liked by a number of his Offaly team-mates, including Alan Mulhall, Pender, and Cian Donohue.

Wallace, who didn’t attend training, hadn’t spoken publicly about the claims as he remains suspended following an incident in the Ardfert-John Mitchels Kerry IFC game in Austin Stack Park last month. Although it is not believed there is a rule against him commenting, Croke Park are known to advise banned individuals not to speak as they serve their penalties.

Having guided Kerry to two consecutive All-Ireland junior titles in 2015 and ’16, as well as Ardfert to an intermediate club All-Ireland in ’15, Wallace had been heralded as a promising appointment last September, taking over from Pat Flanagan. Wallace was recommended by a committee that featured the likes of ex-Offaly players Vinny Claffey and Finbarr Cullen.


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