O’Neill: no repeat of Banner battle

CLARE GAA chairman Michael O’Neill has vowed to put measures in place to ensure that there is no repeat of the bitter dispute that led to Mike McNamara’s resignation as the county’s senior hurling team manager.

O’Neill believes that a drop in the levels of communication between players, management and officials in 2009 helped to create the saga which saw McNamara step down at a specially- convened county board meeting last Tuesday evening.

O’Neill said that regular meetings between all parties took place in 2008 to ensure than any problems were nipped in the bud before they escalated out of control.

But McNamara’s decision to drop Gerry Quinn from his squad last March eventually led to the stand-off which saw the Scariff man vacate his position.

In a statement read out by county board secretary Pat Fitzgerald in the West County Hotel on Tuesday evening, McNamara stated that the players’ vision and desire for success fell far short of the required standards.

He also claimed that there was an agenda to have him removed, irrespective of the views of club delegates or the county board, who publicly backed him in recent weeks.

Privately, McNamara was deeply unhappy and angered by a core group of four or five players who he believed orchestrated the heave against him.

Relations between McNamara and his players crumbled to such an extent that a parting of the ways was inevitable and O’Neill has now vowed that regular meetings will take place between management, players and officials next year. O’Neill recommended monthly, or even fortnightly gatherings to ensure smooth relations when Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin takes over the reins.

O’Neill reflected: “Maybe player power is the wrong wording to use but from our perspective as a county board, we have to recognise the needs of all strands and people involved.

“We have to sit down around a table and come up with structures to avoid this situation in the future.”

O’Neill will now propose that two or three players will meet regularly with team management and a county board delegation, led by O’Neill and secretary Pat Fitzgerald, who has also acted as team liaison officer.

O’Neill also spoke of a mood of “sadness” which hung over Tuesday night’s meeting, stating: “At our November meeting, I was entrusted with the job of going away to meet the players and management and to come up with a formula to resolve the issues.

“Unfortunately that didn’t happen and the mood of the meeting (Tuesday) had a certain amount of sadness that a person of Mike Mac’s calibre had to step down, along with Ollie Baker and Alan Cunningham.”

It is expected that new boss O’Loughlin will contact Tony Griffin in an attempt to get the player to reverse his recent decision to retire.

O’Neill is a Ballyea club mate of Griffin’s but wouldn’t be drawn on the subject of the player’s future.

He said: “That’s not for me to say. That’s for the management coming in and Tony himself. That’s where that stands and what we need is a line drawn in the sand now.

“I’m very optimistic about the future because we have massive potential in the county.

“Down the road we will be very successful and that success may not be too far away if everybody pulls together and gets on with it now.”

Meanwhile, Laois manager Seán Dempsey has received a massive blow with the news former All Star defender Joe Higgins has retired from inter-county football.

Medical advice and his appointment as the new Laois Ladies senior football manager have triggered the decision for the 30-year-old.

“I had a groin operation last year and they diagnosed me with arthritis in my hips. If I kept playing I’d need replacements in a couple of years.

“I had always considered getting into management and though it’s probably a bit sooner than I thought, I’m looking forward to giving it all I can,” he said.


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