Sunday 22 September 2019

'We're turning into the Premiership' - Stephen Wallace 'totally disillusioned' after being axed by the Offaly county board

13 May 2018; Suspended Offaly manager Stephen Wallace at the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Preliminary Round match between Offaly and Wicklow at O'Moore Park in Laois. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
13 May 2018; Suspended Offaly manager Stephen Wallace at the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Preliminary Round match between Offaly and Wicklow at O'Moore Park in Laois. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

Stephen Wallace has expressed his dismay at being dismissed as Offaly football manager despite the players expressing their backing for the Kerry native.

It has been a turbulent few days in the Faithful county after their shock defeat to Wicklow on Sunday and the fallout has seen Wallace relieved of his duties.

Wallace, who is under an eight-week suspension from all GAA activity following an incident in a Kerry club game, has said that the Offaly trained as normal on Wednesday and had issued a statement backing him.

However, the board took a harder line with pressure apparently coming from some clubs and, in a statement, said they are now seeking an interim manager.

"The players trained in the Faithful Field, and got on with their business," he told RTÉ Sport.

"All players that were available to train were there, bar a couple who had been excused for work commitments etc.

"They had a good session. Obviously I wasn’t able to take part myself, but I haven’t been able to take part for a couple of weeks anyway.

"They had a meeting beforehand, as we would always do, a post-match analysis. There have been well-documented issues in the media for the last couple of days, in the fallout of the Wicklow defeat.

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"The players issued a statement, which they handed to the County Board chairman Tommy Byrne, (saying) ‘We look forward to the challenge and improving our performance. We’re very committed to playing for Offaly under the current management. We would also like to confirm that no player has engaged with local or national reporters since last Sunday’s game.

"Full backing from the players (but) I received a phone call from the chairman saying I had been relieved of my duties.

"Obviously, I’m totally disillusioned with this phone call I’ve received.

"The big concern for me, and any manager would attest to this, the backing of the players is paramount.

"The statement that was handed to the chairman has confirmed that the players were 100% behind me as manager and my backroom team, yet the county board have decided to remove me from my position.

County Board chairman Tommy Byrne has claimed that because Wallace is prevented from taking part in training and matchdays due to his suspension, it was right to seek a caretaker manager but Wallace disagreed with their reasoning.

"It makes no logical sense to me," he said. "Is it because we lost a football game to Wicklow? If it is, we’re turning into the Premiership. You lose a game as a soccer manager and you’re looking over your shoulder. Is that what we’ve become?

"I’ve only been suspended for two weeks because there was a long ongoing process with the Kerry County Board. Up until very recently I was able to prepare this team as per normal.

"I’m not the first GAA official to be suspended and I certainly won’t be the last. Is it an ideal scenario? Of course it’s not but if every player or manager who has a misdemeanour is going to be cast aside, we’ll have no-one left playing.

 "I can only assume it’s all this media nonsense that has gone on all week. Most of it has been proven unfounded and untrue.

"The incident that happened in the dressing-room with Nigel Dunne was over, I would imagine, within 17 to 20 seconds. It was blown out of all proportions.

"He said a few words. He wasn’t happy with being substituted. He went for a walk, a member of management went after him, chatted it out, and Nigel probably realised he over-reacted and came back into the dressing room.

"He was sitting outside with the subs when the referee threw the ball up and he came back into the game in the second half.

"This is a county board that has put roadblocks in our way every second of every day.

"It’s the players I feel sorry for. They’re a great bunch of lads and very committed.

"It’s just total nonsense for these guys to be at the mercy of this type of an executive."

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