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"Vile And Unfair Commentary" - Down County Board Lash Out At Media Coverage Of Struggles

"Vile And Unfair Commentary" - Down County Board Lash Out At Media Coverage Of Struggles
By Conor Neville Updated

Down Gaelic football can scarcely have endured a year more miserable than 2016. They were routinely hammered in the National League, demolished by Monaghan in the Ulster championship, and exited the championship early in the qualifiers after losing at home to Longford.

It's very early days yet but 2017 is shaping up to rival 2016 in the misery stakes. Indeed, the misery appears to be only deepening. Down were hopelessly out of their depth in Division 1 last year and they appear to be flailing wildly and desperately in Division 2 this year. They may have to drop down a division or two to find their level yet.

It should come as no surprise that the media coverage of the county has reflected that bleakness. However, the GAA authorities within the county believe much of the coverage has been unfair and they wish to vigorously contest a number of recent reports.

The Down county board believe they have shipped enough abuse. Tonight, they released a very lengthy statement lashing out at media coverage of Down's recent travails.

Over these past two weeks, our players and senior football team manager, the county officers and Down GAA as a whole have been subjected to some vile and unfair commentary and misrepresentation on radio, in printed media and on social media.

In particular, they reject the claims of mass player walkout after the loss to Clare in Ennis. Declan Bogue of the Belfast Telegraph reported last week that a number of players were contemplating walking away.

In the aftermath of the defeat to Clare in the Allianz League, some within the media reported that a number of players had walked away from the county panel in the build-up to the game and that a number of players would not be attending training after the defeat. The facts however do not support this. From an original panel of 38 players, three have left the panel in the January/February period.

(i) Ryan Mallon left the panel on Saturday, 21 January as he felt he was unable to commit to the county team due to his studies. He met with Eamonn Burns and the situation was accepted amicably.

(ii) Gary McMahon decided to leave a week later as he felt that his match time with the team would be limited. Again, the discussion and decision were amicable, as Gary offered to help out at any stage if either of the two other goalkeepers were to become unavailable.

(iii) The only other player to leave the panel was Damian Turley. Any reference to others leaving the panel is inaccurate.

(iv) The players are working hard and they have been strengthened by the recent return of Niall McParland for teaching practice. The management retain the right to add to the panel at any stage in the future. Their focus is on the next game.

They proceeded to reject reports that there'd been a row between management and a county board official at half-time in Ennis.

It was also reported by some in the media that there had been a row/argument at half time in Clare between the team manager and a county official (as the official on duty, the County Secretary was the only officer in contact with the management at half time).

This is entirely inaccurate. At half time the County Secretary asked the team management if there were any interval changes planned, as the paperwork could be provided to the referee in advance of the second half. This was the extent of the conversation that took place.

The statement switched focus. Last week, retired Down player Danny Hughes spoke to Off the Ball about the state of football in the county. Hughes attacked the composition of the county board, saying it was stuffed with people who'd been there for two decades.

"They cannot do their jobs," Hughes said. The great teams of the 1960s and the 1990s were a distant memory and Down football had now become "a laughing stock."


The GAA authorities in Down were not thrilled by this radio interview.

On Wednesday last, a former county player took part in a radio discussion on Newstalk along with a journalist from the Irish News. That broadcast and the various parts of discussion have circulated widely since. People are entitled to their opinions. However, the thrust of the discussion aimed to malign and ridicule the county board, the county officers and others to cast us in an unfavourable light. Some claims and assertions went unchallenged by the presenters, who merely helped to engage in an entirely negative conversation.

Our players, managers, county officers, the members of our various committees, the members of the county committee and all who have given so much to develop Gaelic Games in this county should not be subjected to the type of commentary engaged in by the contributors to this broadcast.

They finished by saying they didn't want to get drawn into a tit-for-tat with the media and merely wished to "set the record straight."

Read more: 12 Motions That We'd Love To See Brought Before GAA Congress

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