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Mayo LGFA Release Strong Statement Defending Manager

Mayo LGFA Release Strong Statement Defending Manager
By PJ Browne Updated

The Mayo Ladies Gaelic Football Association has released a statement regarding the 12 players and two backroom team members who departed the county's senior panel back in July.

The player group brokes its silence on Monday night at a press conference. That was followed by the release of a statement on Tuesday morning in which it was denied that they had departed the panel over selection issues.

"Ultimately our issues related to a lack of communication, being undermined, intimidated, feeling isolated and eventually helpless in the entire situation," said the player statement.

The Mayo LGFA statement backs Peter Leahy and his management team for the 2019 season while also addressing the fallout from the player exodus.

Full Mayo LGFA statement

Mayo LGFA County Board Executive believe the time is now right to issue a statement regarding the player walkout from the Mayo Ladies Senior Football panel in July 2018. We wish firstly to state, that we are endorsing Peter Leahy and his management team, as Mayo Senior Ladies management for the upcoming season and beyond and offer them our full support.

We wish to thank Peter, his management team, and their respective families for their patience, integrity and dignity throughout this episode since July. The County Board also wish to thank the Mayo Senior Players who remained on the panel for the three remaining Intercounty championship games this year and commend them for their performances under immense emotional pressures and in some cases, intimidation.

Three members of the executive met with players who left the senior panel along with representatives of the Carnacon club and listened to their concerns and feelings several days after the walkout. While cognisant of the feelings expressed to us that evening, we felt strongly that their issues related to management style, decisions and selections that are normal and commonplace in any team environment.

We respected the players right to leave the panel and have at all times respected their feelings and concerns by not making them public as we were asked on that occasion by those players.

We feel that it is incumbent on the players to release these and still await them doing so. However, as members of the County Board Executive, as parents, and as people involved with Ladies football for many years, we felt extremely comfortable in our decision to endorse Peter Leahy and his management team less than 48 hours later at a training session in Kiltoom.

We thanked the remaining 28 players who remained for their endorsement of the management team also. We thought it was important to meet with the remaining panel on this night as many of us on the Executive had been receiving calls from players and parents concerned as to what was happening. This concern was due to a statement released by the players who left, through the WGPA, where they cited their reasons for leaving as "Player welfare issues of a personal and sensitive nature".

We are of the opinion, that this was an orchestrated and calculated statement designed to create maximum impact, and garner maximum headlines. We were extremely disappointed having heard the player concerns that they would express them in this manner.

The statement, which remains unsubstantiated, led to rumour and innuendo of the vilest nature and Peter Leahy, and indeed his family, endured a torrid few weeks where they received online, telephone and face to face comments of a despicable nature.

All the while this was happening, the players who left did nothing to quell such rumour and gossip though we now appreciate that they have retrospectively taken responsibility for this in their most recent statement. After this meeting, we found that remaining players had been contacted and pressurised up to and including two days before the intercounty game with Cavan to try and convince them to leave the panel.

We find this behaviour totally unacceptable and unbecoming of anyone who claims to have the interest of Mayo football at heart. We are of the opinion that the walkout was an orchestrated move designed to make the management of Peter Leahy untenable due to sheer weight of numbers leaving the panel.

We feel it was a move designed to wrestle control of the senior team from the management and but for the steadfastness of Peter Leahy, the existing Mayo panel and the County Board it would have succeeded.

The County Board, at great expense, employed the services of a professional and independent mediator who listened to and spoke with all parties involved via telephone and through a sit-down mediation process over the space of a week. All issues were discussed, and all parties were fully aware of each other's issues on the night.

In recent comments by a certain player who left the panel, it was stated that perhaps the girls who remained were not aware or didn't see any of the 'Player Welfare Issues', but they would have been made fully aware of all concerns and feelings through the mediation process. The players have accepted that a number of them did not fully address their issues with other members of the panel and we welcome this, however, we are disappointed that they would refer to the mediation as an "Unfair Process".

The mediator in question is one of the most respected mediators in the country and has worked professionally in all areas of mediation be it industrial or the sporting environment. The mediation process ended unresolved. It must be stated that while the players who left have been insinuating that their issues were not investigated, we the County Board Executive feel that we could not have done anything else reasonably expected of us.

The players withdrew through a phone call from the secretary of the Carnacon club to Peter Leahy, at no time was the player liaison officer or any member of the county board forewarned of any issues, or indeed of the walkout itself. We approached the players through the secretary of the Carnacon club to organise the meeting and we organised the independent mediation process.

At the August County Board meeting which was the first meeting since the player walkout, club delegates asked the executive for a summary of the whole incident around the senior team. While having consideration to the promise we made to the players on the night we met them that their issues would remain confidential, we gave the clubs the timeline of events.

The clubs were of the opinion that the Carnacon clubs' actions in withdrawing their players from the senior panel went against the ethos of the LGFA in the manner that it was done and through the subsequent statement released. The club delegates felt that members of the Carnacon club were complicit in the whole event and had brought Mayo LGFA into disrepute by causing a very public storm through their actions and the harmful statement which followed.

There was a lot of hurt and anger and the clubs felt strongly that Carnacon should be sanctioned for bringing the organisation, their clubs and players into disrepute. As a County Board Executive, we were compelled to sanction the Carnacon club after an overwhelming majority vote. While we were acutely aware that the sanction would affect players who were not part of the walkout, we feel that it was the Carnacon club who removed their young players from a county panel where they would have enjoyed bright futures.

Furthermore, we wish to express our disappointment at further statements made in a radio interview, whereby the playing environment under the management was deemed as 'unhealthy' and she 'didn't feel it was a safe environment'. These remarks have led us to release this statement and we are seeking further advice with regard to them. We must stress that at no stage in our meeting with them were these remarks used. They have further exacerbated the situation and are extremely unhelpful going forward.

Peter Leahy felt compelled to break his silence following these outrageous comments and we feel strongly that we must do likewise. It must be further stated at this stage that management, remaining players and county board officials have all said, and continue to say the same thing, we were not and are not aware of any issues which could be deemed as welfare issues, unhealthy or unsafe environments. We sincerely hope that this situation finishes today and are glad that the players indicated there will be no further comment.

We wish them well in their future endeavours and hope our Senior Team can look forward to playing next year without restriction or intimidation. We wish Peter and his management team all the best going into the new season and we sincerely hope that we, the county board, can get back to the business of administrating Ladies football in the county for our children all the way to our adult players. We thank the clubs for their support and patience throughout this time.

Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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