Mayo county board vow to continue 'financial reforms'
The fractious dispute between a millionaire donor and Mayo GAA which dominated the intercounty off-season has finally been resolved just as its senior footballers embark on the defence of their Allianz National Football League title.
As part of an agreement finalised in recent days, Bahamas-based businessman Tim O'Leary has dropped a lawsuit against Mayo County Board, in which he sought the return of a €150,000 donation, after receiving assurances on financial reforms.
Board chairman Liam Moffatt has also apologised over "any inappropriate and personal remarks" towards O'Leary, including an email from a former officer which described him as a "donkey".
The Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, which O'Leary chairs, is also set to release €250,000 it was withholding due to concerns over governance issues.
The money will be used to fund coaches for an academy in the county.
The resolution of the dispute avoids a potentially protracted and expensive legal case the cash-strapped county could ill afford.
Details of the agreement were confirmed to Independent.ie in a joint statement issued on behalf of Mayo GAA, the foundation and O'Leary on Friday.
The breakthrough came after behind-the-scenes talks between O'Leary and Moffatt, who was appointed last month. GAA director general Tom Ryan was also involved.
In the statement, Moffatt said the board was delighted an agreement had been reached.
"I fully accept that Mr O'Leary's motivation, as indeed all parties' motivation, from the outset was to assist Mayo GAA and it is regrettable that relationships between Mayo GAA and the foundation deteriorated over governance concerns," he said.
"We have outlined the financial reforms that are taking place within Mayo GAA and I have offered Mr O’Leary and his family an apology for any inappropriate and personal remarks towards him, an apology which Mr O’Leary has accepted."
Speaking to Independent.ie, O'Leary said he was "very happy" a resolution had been reached and that donors who have supported the foundation will now see their money being used to fund the development of an academy.
"I am looking forward to going back to games as a supporter without this hanging over me. I am delighted this has happened now, before the new season starts, so there is no distraction for the team," he said.
"We should be talking about what is happening on the pitch, not what has been going on off of it."
The embers had only cooled on the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final when debate sparked as to whether now, finally, we had a worthy successor to the 1977 semi-final for the title of Greatest Football Match Ever Played.
Dublin's five successive All-Ireland titles will always stand as a shrine to their greatness. However, what arguably set them apart that bit more from any other team before them was their work through the darker, colder weekends of early season when they plotted an almost equally successful run of league titles on Jim Gavin's watch.