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Mayo GAA failed to pay restaurant bills totalling €18,000, ex-player claims

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Controversy: Former Mayo footballer, New York-based publican Eugene Rooney

Controversy: Former Mayo footballer, New York-based publican Eugene Rooney

Controversy: Former Mayo footballer, New York-based publican Eugene Rooney

A New York-based businessman has become the latest figure to raise concerns over governance at Mayo GAA, claiming the county board refused to pay bills totalling almost €18,000 at his restaurant.

Former Mayo footballer Eugene Rooney wrote to the county board yesterday claiming a restaurant he owns in Manhattan is owed $19,720 (€17,800).

In a letter sent by his solicitor, Mr Rooney claimed the bills related to visits by the Mayo team and officials to the Oldcastle Pub and Restaurant in 2013 and 2014.

Mr Rooney said in the letter he had been left "significantly out of pocket" and he decided to make the issue public following recent criticisms of the county board by a millionaire backer of Mayo GAA, English-born market options trader Tim O'Leary.

Earlier this week Mr O'Leary hit out at the "culture" he believes exists within Mayo GAA, revealing he was branded a "donkey" in an email sent from an official county board email address.

He called for "a forensic audit" and raised questions over how €150,000 he provided directly to the county board was spent, claiming he had information it was "not used for its intended purpose".

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Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary

The Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, which he chairs, is withholding €250,000 from the county board, saying it will cease funding "until appropriate governance structures are put in place".

The cash has been earmarked for an academy and a centre of excellence, but the foundation says it will not be released unless it is supplied with business plans first.

In his letter to the county board, Mr Rooney backed the actions taken by Mr O'Leary's foundation.

Mr Rooney criticised what he described as a "lack of governance and transparency" from the county board. "The Mayo public deserves answers to all of the reasonable questions from Tim O'Leary," he said.

Mr Rooney requested the county board pays the amount he says is owed in full and pledged to donate the cash to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice. The businessman played for the Mayo senior football team between 1968 and 1972 - winning a National League medal in 1970 - before emigrating to New York, where he now runs three pubs.

He claims two bills, one for $14,520 (€13,100) in 2013 and one for $5,200 (€4,700) in 2014, have not been honoured, despite a number of requests for payment.

It is not the first time Mr Rooney has clashed with the county board.

A meeting in 2014 heard Mr Rooney believed he was owed $4,500 (€4,060) for providing meals for the Mayo team.

However, the county board disputed the sum was owed.

The county board had no comment to make on Mr Rooney's letter last night, although it is possible it may be discussed at a scheduled meeting next week.

The board has already pledged to respond to issues raised regarding governance and finances by Mr O'Leary at the meeting, due to be held on Wednesday. It has also said it is developing business plans for the academy and centre of excellence.

In a letter to the board on Sunday, Mr O'Leary queried why he or the foundation was not offered the opportunity to bid for various sponsorship packages despite expressing an interest.

He voiced concerns that sponsorship packages had not gone through a competitive process and expressed fears the county was not obtaining maximum value from sponsorship opportunities.

These matters are also expected to be discussed at the county board meeting.

Irish Independent