Sunday 21 January 2018

I'm sorry: Duignan

Wrong to tar Offaly footballers with one brush

Michael Duignan apologised last night for the way he presented his comments about alleged indiscipline in the ranks of the Offaly footballers.

As football manager Tom Cribbin backed his under-fire players, Duignan "unreservedly apologised" to those footballers who he said were "genuine" in their effort and commitment to the county.

Duignan blamed "emotion" and passion for "tarring all the footballers with the one brush" in his RTE radio interview on Tuesday night while discussing problems relating to the county hurlers.

But while he backtracked on those players who were giving the required level of commitment, he said the broad base of his comments were true and this was well known among supporters in the county. He also felt Cribbin has had his "head in the sand" on the issue.

Former Offaly player Colm Quinn, a member of the 1997 Leinster championship-winning side, who was contacted by the Irish Independent, agreed with Duignan's general view that there was a lack of commitment among a certain section, but he too jumped to the defence of others who he played with in his career.

"The general feeling among Offaly supporters would be that discipline standards are not enough," said Quinn.

"There is great tradition and great pride in what has been achieved over the years and what it took to gain such a reputation, but it has been eroded far too easily.

"What Michael said on radio was said in the throes of passion and I wouldn't have agreed with him entirely. But there is merit in some of what he says."

Duignan admitted he was "obviously emotional" when he accused the footballers of not wanting to train, having no pride and "going on the beer."

Last night he took a significant step back from that as he returned to the airwaves. "To be fair to Tom Cribben I understand why he is annoyed. I don't think I should have used a broad brush like that," he said.

"I basically tarred all the players on the Offaly panel with the one brush and I want to apologise to all the players on the Offaly panel who are giving the required level of commitment.

"I think of Niall McNamee, the captain this year, the Darbys from Rhode, Karol Slattery, Scott Brady, lads like that and, of course, Ciaran McManus who has played with Offaly for the last 16 years and has travelled from all over Europe for training sessions.

"These lads and their families are rightly annoyed with me today."

Duignan admitted that a number of current players contacted him to express their disappointment with his comments, but he added that these were the genuine players and they agreed there was a problem.

"I would stand over the general tone of what I said," he insisted.

"To me there are quite a number of players on the football panel who aren't disciplined and have the wrong attitude.

"All of Offaly have been aware of the problems that have been ongoing for the last few years with quite a number of the players and it hasn't been tackled.

"I didn't set out to be a spokesman to outline these problems. I inadvertently got involved in it and it has been a long day for me.

"I've got a huge amount of support today from the grassroots to the general tone of the comments I have made. I've had players from the 1970s, '80s and '90s, high-profile players from all those eras, one of most high-profile players even apologised to me. He said it should be the likes of them out making these things public and he felt ashamed that it was left to me and it had little to do with me.

"I made a broad, outlandish statement in the heat of the moment. I was very passionate and I have apologised to the genuine people on that panel that put in such a huge effort. But it was the biggest Leinster championship game since 1947 (defeat to Wexford). Within 25 minutes there were four members of the panel in a pub in Tullamore," he claimed.

Another former Offaly player Vinny Claffey said the County Board should have dealt with the hurling issue much more quickly to help prevent the storm which has blown up.

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