Anthony Cunningham looks set to stay on as Galway manager for a fifth year despite reports of a player vote of no confidence in him.
Talks between Cunningham and officers of Galway county committee took place last night and the early indications were that he intends to remain in charge for 2016.
The St Thomas clubman, the first since Cyril Farrell to bring Galway to two All-Ireland finals, was appointed without dissent by the county committee last Monday night.
His reappointment, which last year required the casting vote of county chairman Noel Treacy for him to continue, had earlier come through the hurling management executive and hurling board without any objection.
Indeed, the ratification of Cunningham and football manager Kevin Walsh was welcomed in Galway, and hurling chairman Michael Larkin said it was key to get it done in the aftermath of the All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny.
“The important thing was to do it very timely and quickly and get positivity out there so we could move on,” he said in midweek.
GAA officials in the county, who are declining to talk publicly about the controversy until efforts are made to find a solution, were keen yesterday to point out the meetings at which Cunningham was ratified were all scheduled and none were brought forward.
Officials did admit to being shocked when reports emerged that there was discontent and a number of officials met with a delegation of players on Saturday night.
A senior GAA source said that nothing was highlighted at that briefing to suggest that the reappointment of Cunningham should be revisited, but they were anxious to meet the manager to get his side of the story last night.
Cunningham was keeping his cards close to his chest in advance of that meeting but a source close to the team management said that it was believed that the discontent was from a minority rather than majority but that this included a small number of influential long-serving players.
Nine of the Galway team which started against Kilkenny were playing in their first All-Ireland and senior GAA officials in the county found it incredulous that many of these would turn against Cunningham so soon after being given their chance at senior inter-county level.
“You will never have a situation where all players are happy,” said one senior GAA official. “You could have a situation where you have a player or two who is not being selected and they try to bring about change. That may well be the case in this instance because there was nothing to suggest from the panel that there were major problems.” Reports suggested that players had voiced their disquiet to Cunningham following a disappointing league campaign which fizzled out with a dismal display against Waterford.
GAA officials in the county would not confirm yesterday that a vote of no confidence had been expressed in the team management at that stage, but pointed out that momentum built quickly during the Leinster championship campaign.
The optimism continued even after the All-Ireland final loss on a day when the county’s minors won the All-Ireland title in front of what is regarded as the biggest crowd ever from Galway to be in Croke Park.
“Everyone was already looking forward to 2016 and now this happens. It’s hard to know how it can be resolved, but there is damage done no matter what way you look at it,” said another seasoned Galway delegate. “We have had problems in the past reappointing managers but this didn’t seem to be the case this time,” he added.
Galway county committee issued a brief statement on the matter yesterday evening prior to the meeting with Cunningham.
“Last evening a number of players, representing the 2015 senior hurling panel, met with officers of the County and Hurling Committees to outline some issues and their position in relation to the proposed 2016 management team set-up.
“These matters will be reviewed in an effort to find a resolution.
“In the meantime, showing respect for the parties involved, no further statement will be issued by the Galway County Committee in relation to this matter, until a satisfactory resolution has been reached,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, attention will turn to action on the field next weekend when the quarter-finals of the Galway SHC will take place after the remaining qualifiers were finalised on Saturday.The pick of the games will be the meeting of champions Gort and 2013 predecessors Portumna in a repeat of last year’s final.
Loughrea take on the 2013 All-Ireland club champions St Thomas’ in another quarter-final, with Craughwell meeting city side Liam Mellowes and Sarsfields will take on neighbours Padraig Pearses.
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