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Cooney makes case

GERRY COONEY has broken his silence on the eve of the crunch county board meeting that will decide if Meath GAA appoints an ‘outside' football manager for the first time in its history.

It's not too late to do the right thing,” Cooney has urged club delegates who will be asked tonight by the Meath executive to ratify Monaghan's Seamus McEnaney.

The local alternative to McEnaney's highpowered management team has also rubbished suggestions that Meath players will revolt if the nomination of ‘Banty' is rejected.

“This notion of the players going on strike is an absolute falsehood,” Cooney insisted in an interview with the Evening Herald. McEnaney has been recommended by a threeman selection committee and then, at the second time of asking last week, by the county board's management committee.

In most other counties, gaining full county board approval is seen as a rubber-stamping exercise – but not in Meath, where clubs have already rejected the executive's earlier recommendation to reappoint Eamonn O'Brien.

Since then, the protracted search for a successor was whittled down to a two-horse race between Cooney and McEnaney before the latter assumed pole position last week.

However, amid rumblings of grassroots unease at the prospect of going outside the county, the homegrown candidate has not given up just yet. And he's angry at some of the recent media slant.

Responding to predictions of a panel revolt, Cooney said he had spoken to some senior players who “made it very clear” they had no preference, “as long as there are proper structures in place and a professional approach”.

“There will be no revolt, regardless of who gets the position,” he insisted. “It has been put out there as a scare tactic – in my opinion – to influence the delegates at a crucial time.”

Cooney has also moved to distinguish between his ‘all-green' management team (comprising former Meath players Darren Fay, Finian Murtagh and Andy McEntee) and the more eclectic mix of three Ulstermen (McEnaney, Paul Grimley and Martin McElkennon) plus former Meath defender Liam Harnan.

In doing so, he delivered some veiled barbs at the rival team. For example…

(1) On the subject of managerial blueprints, he declared: “Our recommendation was building for the future.

We were investing in the future of Meath, and the structures that we would put into place were going to include from U16 upwards – rather than what's being proposed now, which seems like a quick-fix solution.”

(2) On the question of tactics, he said: “There is a style of football that Meath have always played, and it doesn't mean that we're not open to revising that. But there is a belief that Meath should not change drastically, and the concern in some circles is that a team from outside the county would attempt to change.”

(3) Pressed on the fact that McEnaney has been chosen as the preferred candidate, Cooney conceded: “The process was fair and transparent and above board, and we got more than a fair hearing … but I don't think all the information has been made available to the delegates who ultimately are going to make the decision.”

(4) He described “costings” as a significant issue and stressed that the people in his set-up “had only the interests of Meath football at heart”. While McEnaney remains favourite, tonight's vote is no foregone conclusion.

And if he were to be rebuffed, it would constitute another hammer blow for an already embattled Meath top table. “I think there's a possibility that it will be rejected,” Cooney said, in which case the process has to begin again. “I would argue that for the sake of doing the right thing, if it takes another few days to sort this out, let's do that.”