Old ally Johnny Kelly has advised Anthony Cunningham to “admit defeat” and depart his position as Galway senior hurling manager.
Kelly, who guided this year’s Galway U21s and teamed up with Cunningham in the All-Ireland winning intermediate set-up, described the current impasse between Cunningham and his players as “unprecedented”.
Galway officials have resorted to mediation to address the stalemate which has prevailed since Cunningham was reappointed as manager just days after the players handed him a motion of no confidence.
Kelly, who managed Coolderry to the Offaly title last weekend, acknowledged Cunningham deserves to be heard after guiding Galway to two All-Ireland hurling finals, most recently last month’s four-point loss to Kilkenny.
But he suggested that there is little chance of a middle ground being reached that will see him continue to work with the same players in 2016.
“I don’t know can it ever be back to normal,” said Kelly, who managed former All-Ireland club kingpins Portumna for four seasons. “Being honest about it, if you lose a dressing room, you are probably better off to admit defeat.
“But having said that, Anthony did get that team to an All-Ireland final. I think everyone should realise that fact and he has put in huge work not alone over the last three or four years but the years previously with the U21s in Galway. He’s been good for Galway and I think with respect to the man, he deserves to be heard as well.”
Kelly said he was surprised to learn of the players’ strong feelings towards Cunningham.
“For a management that got a team to an All-Ireland final, you would have said his job was safe so it is strange,” continued Kelly. “Obviously there were concerns by some of the players, they voiced those concerns, so I suppose the overriding factor is there needed to be a small bit of a debate about that and a sit down meeting to clear the air. That would have been the prudent way to proceed but obviously that didn’t happen and we are where we are now.”
Galway officials proceeded with Cunningham’s reappointment despite the players’ grievances being raised a number of days earlier. “Well, if there were concerns there and individuals were made aware of that, then certainly the prudent course of action would have been to hold fire and get those views aired, and see if all the views could be listened to, and decisions at that stage could have been made,” said Kelly.
If Cunningham does step down, or if he departs following mediation, Kelly would be a contender to succeed him.
“It’s a difficult one for everyone that’s involved, there’s no winners for anyone in Galway at the minute,” said Kelly. “You need to resolve it as quickly as possible. It’s important that Galway don’t have this in-fighting going on for too much longer, particularly if there is to be a change in management. Galway can be quite political and you’d hope that common sense will prevail and that the best people stay involved with Galway, both players and management.”
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