Sunday 17 December 2017

Galway officials were unaware of the chasm between Anthony Cunningham and the players

Anthony Cunningham
Anthony Cunningham

John Fallon

Galway officials were unaware of the scale of the differences between Anthony Cunningham and his players when they reappointed him in September as hurling manager for 2016, according to the county’s top GAA official.

Galway GAA chief executive John Hynes said that they only became aware of the extent of the crux when approached by two player representatives five days after he was reappointed.

But he said that every player got ‘both consideration and opportunity’ during Cunningham's four years in charge.

Hynes outlines the timescale of events, which has rocked the GAA in Galway since September, in his report to the county’s annual convention.

He said that Cunningham had been reappointed on September 28, a day after meeting player representatives to discuss issues they had with 2016.

“Five days later, on Saturday October 3, two player representatives met with five officers of the county and hurling committees to explain their issues, express their views in relation to the 2016 season ahead and outline the change they believe is required, to ensure success.

“This was the first time that the county committee officers became aware of the scope and depth of feeling among the players in relation to these issues.

“It is important to clarify that no county officer was made aware of these issues, prior to October 3. Furthermore there is no evidence to suggest that any hurling officer, club delegate or any county committee officer or member was aware of these issues, prior to the meetings on September 28, at which the manager was proposed and reappointed for 2016,” said Hynes.

He said that the row between the players and management, coming just weeks after playing in the All-Ireland senior final, had surprised supporters.

“There was widespread dismay in the GAA community, especially in the Galway hurling community, when news of an impasse between the 2015 senior hurling panel and the current management team surfaced.

“This was a situation, new to Galway, that needed to be investigated thoroughly and resolved in the best interest of all concerned not only the players and team management but also for the clubs, members, supporters and the wider GAA community in Galway.”

Hynes said that the same five officers who had met the players then met the team management to discuss the issues raised by the hurlers.

“There is no denying the fact that there were some differences of opinion emerging, in relation to what was said and more importantly, what was understood, when the player representatives and manager met, on September 27.”

Galway officials, left in no doubt about the scale of the problem when 29 players turned up to the next meeting with officers, then decided to bring in a mediator in an effort to find a resolution.

“It must be said that all parties entered into the spirit of mediation in a positive and non-adversarial manner.

“Following nine hours of group meetings and discussions the first phase of the mediation process was postponed to allow time for reflection.

“On Saturday November 7 all parties reconvened at the same venue (outside Galway) and the mediation resumed. At this stage seven players were in attendance as were five of the management team and the same three county and hurling committee officers. Following a further four hours of group meetings and discussions the mediation process concluded.

“The mediator determined that despite best efforts there was little if no possibility of getting the parties to reach agreement, on the substantive issue.

“The management team believed that the no confidence stance of the players was driven by a minority of the players and they did not accept that the reasons given by the players were justified or valid.

“On the other hand the 2015 senior hurling panel had indicated that they had no confidence in the current team management set-up and they requested change. A number of players had indicated that they did not personally support the no-confidence stance in the current team management,” said Hynes.

Cunningham resigned as Galway manager on November 16, accusing a minority of players of having driven the issue in a bid to extend their playing careers.

CEO Hynes paid tribute to Cunningham for having guided Galway to two All-Ireland finals as well as winning the Leinster title for the time in his four years in charge.

“While Anthony and his management teams were in charge, every player in our county got both consideration and opportunity and I wish to express our deepest and profound gratitude to Anthony and his management team for the great work they have done for Galway hurling,” he added.

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