Kildare look to coax back hurling boss Sunderland after shock exit
Talks are under way in Kildare to coax Willie Sunderland back as hurling manager after he quit on Friday night over the deteriorating financial support for his team.
Sunderland, who guided the county to a Division 2B title last April, stepped down in frustration at the lack of funding his team has had. He highlighted problems with accessing physios, pitches and working off a reduced budget of just €75,000, despite having to operate at a higher level than last season.
Kildare Hurling Board chairman Eddie Lawler refused to comment yesterday about the situation. "Things are at a delicate stage. It would be better not to stay anything for now. But there are talks going on," he said.
However, it is clear that those talks with board officials are designed to bring Sunderland and his team back and there is some confidence that an arrangement can be made to satisfy his terms for a possible return.
There has also been dialogue with Kildare County Board, which is under increasing pressure to reduce its expenditure after running up a deficit of over €700,000 in the last five years.
The county is effectively in administration, with direct input into their financial affairs from Croke Park.
It will be a concern for Croke Park, however, that an emerging hurling county like Kildare is faced with such a scenario because of such paltry funding.
Earlier this year it was suggested that the Kildare hurlers did not even get a pair of boots, receiving a voucher for a discount at a sports store instead. Under the player welfare terms they are entitled to two pairs of boots annually.
Sunderland said over the weekend that he no longer felt in control of his team.
There have been cracks in the whole link with the county board for the past few months and they have widened to an extent that I feel I was just not in control of the team anymore.
"We have had serious issues with basic stuff, like the availability of physios and pitches and trying to get challenge matches before we make a step up and play the likes of Westmeath, Wicklow, Laois, Kerry and Derry in Division 2A.
"One of my players got injured last Sunday morning at training and I didn't even have an ice pack to give him, never mind a physio.
"We have been told that all county teams have to train together – hurling and football – on the same night and share physios.
"That's fine, but we've been designated pitch No 4 at Hawkfield. There are floodlights there, but they are not attached to the generator."
On top of that, Kildare are on the brink of losing one of their most talented young players, Conor Kenny, who is poised to transfer to a club in Tipperary. That will make eligible for the Tipp U-21s in 2013.
Sunderland's back-room team – selectors Mattie Dowd and Don McSweeney and coach Bertie Sherlock, who has worked with Davy Fitzgerald in Waterford – have also quit.
Meanwhile Colin Fennelly has been appointed Kilkenny captain for next season.
The 23-year-old army cadet is a brother of former Hurler of the Year Michael, who captained Kilkenny to All-Ireland glory in 2011. Henry Shefflin has been nominated as vice-captain.