KILDARE County Board chairman John McMahon has strongly denied claims that it has been financially drained by the senior football set-up.
"In the past week we've had to read reports of us being held to ransom by the senior team, we've been likened to Fianna Fáil and the deal they struck with the Troika and it's all absolute nonsense," McMahon told the Sunday Independent.
In the wake of a €300,000 advance from Croke Park to help alleviate mounting debts, the board has been under fire as concerns grow in the county over the amount of money being spent on the senior footballers amid fears it will be to the detriment of other teams and clubs.
"The truth is that we're one of about 13 counties that are experiencing serious financial difficulties at the moment but while we have problems -- and we hold our hands up and admit we have them -- we will get out of this situation," said McMahon.
"Everyone in this county has bought in to what we need to do and our fundraising drive and fightback has started in earnest. Yes, we're in trouble and we're not too proud to admit that, but a lot of other counties are way worse off and it's absolute nonsense to compare us to the Troika. We're amateur sportspeople trying to stabilise ourselves.
"All this stuff about the senior footballers draining us -- look, we have a manager ( Kieran McGeeney) who wants the best and demands the best. He wants to deliver a winning team and we've done all we can to help and facilitate that.
"The players want the best too, which is fair enough. But they all understand that we're in trouble now and we've already reduced our team expenditure budget by 30 per cent. Last year we spent €750,000 on team expenses -- this year it will be down to €600,000. Kieran McGeeney and I have sat down and gone through the budget bit by bit. He understands it will be slashed, but the same applies for every manager at every grade. It's not just Kieran, we've sat down and spoken to them all.
"So I wouldn't accept for one second that there are two entities in Kildare, the senior footballers and the county board. The fact of the matter is that all teams, the board and Club Kildare are together on this, working to find a way out of this financial headache."
McMahon also dismissed claims that his board will no longer be able to sign off on cheques without the backing of Croke Park officials as a condition of the advance payment.
"Yes, there are conditions and we will meet them," the chairman said. "But we'll be left to our own devices to write cheques and it's wrong to suggest otherwise. Only today (Thursday) our secretary Kathleen O'Neill wrote cheques to the tune of €100,000 to pay creditors. Those people will have their money in the next day or so at the latest and that's a fact. But yet we have to read speculation about us not being able to operate our own finances and pay bills anymore."
Analysis PAGES 4, 5
The appointment of former Munster Council secretary Simon Moroney as an advisor is also seen by many as a slap on the knuckles for the county board, but McMahon insists this is not the case.
"Simon is coming in as an advisor and he'll be working with us from the middle of May, but to be honest I want to be able to demonstrate to him that we are regaining control of our finances by the time he comes in."
The chairman conceded it's a very stressful time for all those at the coalface of Kildare GAA but says he has been heartened by recent league success for both the hurlers and footballers.
"At least we know where we stand. My job now is to leave this post in a better state when I'm stepping aside down the line," he said.
"We know we've overdone the spending in the past, but we have fundraising targets set and people like Kathleen O'Neill, our treasurer Martin Whyte, commercial director Marty McEvoy and Pat Mangan from Club Kildare know the task that faces us. But we've received co-operation from everyone and that's heartening.
"Club Kildare have been backing us for 21 years and yet there's a constant criticism of their role. I don't know why -- I'm a member of that organisation and Martin Whyte is joint-treasurer so we have direct access to their activities and they are going to be crucial in improving our financial status.
"We have a challenge on our hands but I'm not pushing against the tide here. We know what we have to do."