End this now

Photo: RTÉ

The schism in Mayo ladies football has been ongoing for months at this stage. It’s a row that has become increasingly bitter and divisive as each new damaging development has occurred. Over the past week the blows being landed by both sides have come thick and fast, neither of them holding back, both seemingly intent on wounding the other to the maximum extent with every strike they land.

I’ve deliberately kept away from the furore here on the blog. Ladies football rarely gets too much coverage here at the best of times – I’ve only so much Mayo GAA-related bandwidth at my disposal and covering LGFA action in anything more than a cursory way simply isn’t possible for me – and these quite clearly aren’t the best of times within Mayo LGFA. My thinking has been that giving the row airtime here wasn’t likely to be of any help and could just make matters worse.

I’m hesitant, to be honest, about saying anything on it now. I’ve no idea about the rights and wrongs involved – though, as is invariably the case in life, I suspect there are two valid sides to this particular story – and it’s not my intention here to express any opinion, one way or the other, on what either side has said in the dispute.

Instead, my plea is a simple one. This public slugging match can’t go on. Both sides need to pull back and stop feeding a story which has been elevated to national soap opera status.

The dispute has provided brilliant raw material for the Off The Ball lads, for Colm Parkinson, for RTÉ and for the national media generally and they sure haven’t been slow to lap it all up. The longer both sides keep feeding them new twists to the tale they’ll gladly continue to churn it out for the nation’s delectation.

But who wins by continuing to do this?

It’s transparently clear at this stage that there can be no winners here. Long-term hurt and enduring damage has been caused, rifts have been created that will take years to heal. There’s no happy ending to all this, on either side of the chasm.

What’s been said to date by both sides in the row – and in particular over the last week – can’t be unsaid. Allegations and counter-allegations that have been made are incapable of being unmade. But that doesn’t mean that this war of words needs to continue, that further insult is heaped on further injury.

It’s long past the time for both camps to come to their senses. Both sides have made huge contributions to the development of ladies football down the years, within the county and nationally, but equally they’ve both caused enormous damage to the LGFA with what they’ve said and done in recent months.

Enough is enough. It’s time to get this whole sorry saga out of the media spotlight. It won’t end the war but it’s surely a necessary first step to doing so.

30 thoughts on “End this now

  1. You are 100% right. But looking at the outcome of last nights meeting I don’t think we have reached the end yet. To be honest only the 8 ladies from the Carnacon Club were suspended and club fined. What happened to the other 4 ladies that left. Did they receive the same punishment? If all the ladies were wrong then the same punishment should be given out to all. Also why fined the Carnacon Club. Its the ladies from the club on county panel that were caught up in this mess not the rest of ladies on club team. I hope this club will appeal this decision. Its hard to imagine that Mayo ladies from the Carnacon who after all are All Ireland Club Champions and some All Stars in 2017 could not get a place on this Mayo team in 2018? If they were not good enough then why is the County Board so stupid to keep this saga going? As you stated WJ there are 2 sides to this story and it will rumble on yet I would say.

  2. Very well said, WJ. There are no winners now, it’s just a case of damage limitation and trying to ensure that this rift eventually heals – and it will take years, generations even – for the good of the county.

  3. Yes WJ it is a sorry mess, one has to feel sympathy for the girls that left, the girls that remain and the manager. I wouldn’t be too sympathetic towards co board who should be well aware as a grouping of people with broad experiences that in such a heated situation people do much better work with their ears and less with their mouths. I don’t know who was used as a mediator, if anybody, but at this stage I would be suggesting that somebody with respect within the ladies football community and somebody with strong communication skills should be brought on board for the next month to facilitate the environment necessary to allow a fully respectful dialogue to play out between the main three parties being, departed players, remaining players and team management. For instance someone of the calibre of Anna Geary.

  4. Fully agree Willie Joe
    but.. what is the actual path to deescalation in this mess?
    I have real sympathy for Leahy but how can this be resolved with him staying in charge? The alternative is for Mayo Ladies team to permanently exclude the 12 players in which case this will continue to fester.

    Just thoughts on what’s needed – whether they are realistic or not is another point:
    – no further press conferences or radio/TV appearances on this from either Mgmt or 12 players
    – Public [written] apology from Cora for the use of the term ‘unsafe’. That really was the nuclear button in this war.
    – Apology from Cornacon for withdrawal of players from County without adequate cause
    – Re-engage external mediator and agreement on both sides to abide by their findings / recommendations on player feedback and communication protocols. .
    – Agreed date for Leahy to transition his role to a new Management team [i.e. he agrees to resign as long as the players recant statement that implied they felt ‘unsafe’]
    – reintroduce 12 players for 2019 league

  5. Summed up my feelings completely WJ on this matter. Like all great arguments the truth lies somewhere in the middle. At the moment it’s become a proxy for the rivalry between Colm Parkinson and off the ball, with both sides aligning themselves to a particular side in this issue and using them to have digs at the other. What an unedifying, humiliating mess for Mayo gaa yet again.

  6. I agree with you Mike on a lot of what your saying but I dont see why Peter Leahy has to resign he kept the show on the road all Summer But it’s a sad end to the career of the likes of Cora who has giving sterling service maybe she will feel its time to move on she’s not getting any younger.

  7. I was sickened to see that press conference make the news yesterday evening.Raking over all that has gone so publicly served no purpose..Sad state of affairs that Cora will most likely finish her career on this note..As will others..Cant agree with the idea that Leahy needs to step aside..

  8. How right you are Willie Joe, the only sane thing now is to let things calm down and stay away from any more media coverage. What’s done is done and can’t be undone but now that everybody has had their say, maybe just maybe common sense might prevail.

  9. It’s been a very bad year for Mayo football. An early exit for the men and the management fiasco was bad enough and then the ladies saga blew up. We can’t do anything quietly. There have to be serious questions about both County Boards and the caliber of those involved in running the game in Mayo. My own belief is that Carnacon will be reinstated as you cannot hold a club responsible for what individual players do at county level.

    It is looking more likely that James Horan will be returning to take charge again as no other realistic candidate out there. Probably a little early for Solan to get the job as too many older established players in the panel. There will be a new crop of youngsters he will have worked with in a couple of years.

    As usual with Mayo we will be facing into a new season not knowing what to expect but hoping for the best.

  10. I really feel for the ladies who left the panel.

    You spend most of your life training and aspiring to play mayo. The level of commitment required to get to this level is inspiring.

    For it all to end this way must be devastating for the girls involved, their families and friends.

    I have watched some of them in croke park over the years and they always represented their county with aplomb.

    They clearly felt aggrieved over something and they deserved to be handled with compassion and understanding.

    I have 2 young girls who have the same aspirations. At whatever age or grade they play, i hope their voices are always heard.

  11. Leahy should do what needs to be done and resign, it’s just not worth it for him to be dragged around like this, what’s to be gained by it?
    The spirit of the entire panel may be ruined at this stage, we won’t know until they get together again and train or play. The thing is to remember we are all replaceable on the sports field, because there’s another spectacular Mayo player in junior infants or starting in secondary school or maybe not even born yet, but they will be along. Or maybe a few fringe panel members of today’s group will seize this opportunity and decide that they are going to get themselves a starting place on the team and push that bit harder.
    I’m really hoping that James Horan sticks to his guns and only returns if they give him what he needs. If not then I think there will be an exodus of players and we are going to slip back.

  12. All i will say on this topic is I really wish the girls yesterday didn’t use the mental health excuse. So many in this country have suffered from that disorder and where families have lost their loved ones because of it.

  13. Agree completely with you WJ, and I believe that what you said, needed saying. Ladies football in this county will suffer tomorrow and for years to come. I am not involved TBG, but if I were, I would be walking today.

  14. Good man Mike,. but you will never get hired as a mediator, or conflict resolution manager IMO. Pushing all the wrong buttons will not fix this one.

  15. I think with the use of ‘unsafe’, it was important to clarify it was more the feeling of intimidation or aggression or whatever it was rather than gender related which is what people will assume (the worst) if the word isn’t put in context. If people felt it affected their mental health then I think they have a right to voice that.
    Also I would ask was a skilled trained mediator used as surely it was resolvable earlier on.
    As for the future, I would say it probably isn’t tenable for the manager to stay on but in fairness he deserves more clarity on the use of the words used.
    ‘Player Welfare’ can also have the same connotations in the context of a women’s team. Bear in mind also the age profile of women’s footballers is significantly younger so the ability to be articulate and pick the right words isn’t as evolved as players 4 or 6 years older. That said Cora who I heard backtrack the other night is very life experienced but may have stuck to the group position.

  16. You’re probably right there PJ. 🙂
    I have enough on my plate in my current job without taking on this debacle. 🙂

  17. this will be ended by peter leahy leaving his post by resigning or being relieved by the mayo county board.this will come to pass eventually, but the sooner the better .this is one fight peter cannot win.once he loses the dressing room, ITS OVER AND OUT.

  18. Jimbo, where is your address, is it Carnacon or Clougher?
    Ye just don’t get it. Leahy has been publicly backed and heavily supported by the county board, so they are not going to ask him to step down. The county board have been backed by the clubs who voted, on two occasions and by a huge majority in both votes, to suspend Carnacon. There is only one winner in this and it certainly is not Carnacon or the “Leavers”.
    For their sake I hope they leave things as they are. Because, take it from me, the details put out on the county boards statement last night are just the tip of the iceberg. If the Leavers want to keep whatever sense of class and pride they think they have, it’s best if they call a halt to their public protestations and accept that they started a fight they fully expected to win, but instead they got a belt in the face. This is new to them because they have been used to demanding and getting everything their own way but now find themselves under scrutiny and backed in to a corner.

  19. Very well said Willie Joe. Summed up this whole sorry mess perfectly. The hardest thing sometimes can be taking that belt in the gob.. decide to walk away or just shake hands and get on with it for the sake of the greater good. Either way at this point there will be no winners here

  20. Tonyk Whatever sympathy I had for the leavers evaporated with their references to mental health and the unsafe environment they referred to. They left that in the public domain allowing all sorts of people to think all sorts of things. They claimed it was not selection issues but when you look at their last statement it appears that it was selection issues after all. Leahy kept his dignity in this and kept the show on the road probably saving the ladies co board a huge fine. The county board have spoken very strongly on the issue. Unfortunately it may not be sorted out unless the manager leaves and that would be a real shame. He has done the county some service in 2018 while some of the leavers appear to have done their county a major disservice.

  21. Pebblesmeller,
    Carnacon may not be the winners in this contremps but remember that they are the only winners in Mayo Ladies football with their Mayo, Connacht and All Ireland titles. As such Mayo are the big losers, not Carnacon. My guess is that whatever road Carnacon have to take their players will be reinstated as Carnacon have been and they will be representing Mayo again this winter. Leahy may well be right in one sense in that he did nothing which was “Wrong”. But when he lost his captain, who of course is not from Carnacon, it cannot be said that he did things “right” either. From what Sarah Tierney has said her leaving had nothing to do with Carnacon. The fact that she has escaped the punishment inflicted on the Carnacon players indicates to me that she has right on her side and that the Co Board knew that. In my opinion this has more to do with resentment with Carnacon’s domination of Mayo football than any issue with players leaving the Co panel or otherwise. It gave the Board and other clubs – or the majority of them – the chance to hammer Carnacon and boy did they take it.

  22. AndyD, this is far bigger than a county title or a provincial title. This goes to the heart of ladies football in our county and who actually runs it. The reason the Carnacon players are/were suspended is not any resentment towards them, it is because their club secretary formally withdrew those players from the panel, breaching rule 288. If the secretary had done nothing, and the girls had walked themselves, there would be no rule breach and no suspension. The other girls that walked were not suspended!
    The first the county board knew of Tierneys concerns were when she aired them in that interview, at no time did she or any of the others use the proper channels that were there to deal with any grievances. So to say the CB knew she was right is unfounded.
    Finally, as regards any resentment towards Carnacon, the club that proposed the motion to suspend them, and the club that seconded it, were NOT senior clubs and so had nothing to gain by having them out of the championship as they weren’t going to meet them anyway.
    Anyway, hopefully calm can be restored and get the mames out of the papers because it’s getting embarrassing for all concerned.

  23. Pebbles, Rule 288 is so vague and broad that it could be applied to almost anything. There is nothing in the LGFA Rulebook outlawing a club stepping in to represent/withdraw its players in cases like this.

    Yet, there is a very specific rule pertaining to individuals refusing to play or travel with their county team (Rule 193) which stipulates a six month ban for such individuals. And yet this sanction was neither proposed by the Mayo LGFA Board nor club delegates in the case of the non-Carnacon players.

    This is not to say that I agree with the actions of the leavers or what transpired subsequently, but you can not ignore one rule for one group and impose another for a different group if they’ve all committed the same “offence”. That’s the very definition of selective justice and it reeks of an agenda to get Carnacon.

    Such sanctions are untenable, which is why Connacht LGFA Council reinstated Carnacon in the Championship, albeit with a fine and suspensions.

  24. It Means Nothing to Me,
    The reason Rule 288 was invoked was because the delegates believed that the “member” i.e Carnacon – and a club is considered a member of the LGFA in the same was an individual player is – brought the game in Mayo in to disrepute by their actions, and the subsequent events following. You are right when you say there is nothing in the LGFA Rulebook outlawing a club stepping in to represent/withdraw its players, but there is a rule when a club brings the game in to disrepute, and that was the decision.
    You are incorrect when you say that Rule 193 was not proposed, it was. But after debate among the clubs on the night, a vote was taken to withdraw that proposal and instead go for Rule 288 as the feeling was that the whole episode was serious enough to go down that route.
    Had Carnacon not formally withdrawn their players, Rule 288 would not have been invoked, and Carnacon would not have been on the hook. The others that left could have been suspended under Rule 193, as they left of their own accord (the same offence was not committed so there is no selective justice here), but as the entire episode was ignited by Carnacon withdrawing their players the vote, by a hefty majority, was to go down the Rule 288 route. I expect Carnacon to appeal the player suspensions though.
    Funny thing is, in all of this, there is not a single word of the other clubs who have had to stand by and see the senior championship postponed while this saga plays it’s way through the process.

  25. Pebblesmeller,

    So the club delegates went after the Carnacon club but not the individual other players for players withdrawing from the county panel? That is, applying one rule to one group, but not a similar rule to another, when they collectively stood accused of a similar offence. Sorry, but that’s selective justice no matter how you parse it.

    I very much doubt that the Carnacon committee forced the players not to play. It’s much more likely that they agreed to represent the players having heard their grievances.

    As I said, Rule 288 is so broad and nebulous that it can be applied to practically anything. I don’t personally think it’s morally defensible to suspend 20 odd club footballers in Carnacon for a dispute that 8 of their county panelists had with the county set-up.

    I think that the LGFA should consider revising those particular rules when the dust settles, because irrespective of the rights and wrongs of this particular case, I don’t think anyone should ever be sanctioned for not wanting to play county football.

    Regarding the other clubs, yes, that is very unfortunate. However, had the original sanction issued not been wildly excessive, it wouldn’t have come to that.

    There are no winners and many losers in this situation, unfortunately.

  26. The winners in this are the media. It’s great for them. Just put a mike near anyone involved and they seem to sing like canaries.
    Can all sides in Mayo LGFA and GAA please keep the next disagreement in-house? The media just love to see this rumbling on as it fills their radio shows and newspapers. But all fights have to be settled at some stage and running to the media is not helping resolution in any good way.

  27. My own belief is that if a positive outcome can not be reached from meditation then I think in time both sides will look back with massive regrets .

  28. Stop pandering to players of all codes & gender. Too much pussy-footing around such people. Their involvment should be voluntary but not conditional. We live in a society that extolls equivocation, excuses and misplaced sense of entitlements. So get on with it – leadership is not about unanimous support.

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