| 16.8°C Dublin

Offaly in spin after airing dirty laundry

OFFALY are washing so much filthy linen in full view of a bemused public that they haven't even bothered to separate the whites from the colours.

Around it all goes, so much dirt and dye spinning furiously that it's impossible not to believe that all the fabrics will be damaged. So however sharp the distinctions between the green, white and gold may appear on the jerseys when the hurlers and footballers go into qualifier action on Saturday week, it may not take too much rain to cause them to run into each other.

The row over the use of O'Connor Park, Tullamore by the senior hurlers for a training session was wounding enough, but now the senior footballers have been dragged into it by former dual star Michael Duignan.

He has cast a net-full of accusations at them, claiming they are reluctant trainers, lack pride in the jersey and are partial to excessive beer-drinking.

Those are very serious allegations which, unsurprisingly, have drawn a reaction from football manager Tom Cribbin, who can't understand why his squad have been hauled into a row involving the hurlers.

"I don't know what the footballers have to do with all this. He (Duignan) is totally out of order with those comments," said Cribbin.

So here's the latest situation in a saga that the rest of country is observing with a mixture of amusement and surprise.

Offaly senior hurling management and squad complain about locked gates and players being ordered off O'Connor Park last Saturday; former stars Duignan and Daithi Regan lash the county board, accusing them of crimes most heinous against Offaly hurlers' best interests; the board remains silent, promising to deal with all the various issues later while hinting everything may not be as clear-cut as it looks; Duignan virtually accuses Offaly footballers of sporting treason; their manager earnestly defends them while wondering how on earth they became an issue in a hurling row.

And all the time the countdown continues to the All-Ireland qualifiers in nine days' time, where Offaly hurlers will play Cork or Laois while the footballers take on Monaghan.

In all probability, Offaly hurlers are facing a trip to Pairc Ui Chaoimh to play Cork, a challenge which, at the best of times, would require total concentration and perfect harmony.

Instead, the newspapers and airwaves are carrying reports of internal Offaly chaos.

Meanwhile, Eamonn McEneaney and his Monaghan players are listening to one of Offaly's best-known GAA names making the most damning broad-brush criticisms of the football squad.

So too are the Offaly players, including those who bring total dedication to the cause.

It's a total mess, one which is contributing to the distinct likelihood of Offaly's hurling and football championship campaigns being over before the end of June as they head into the murky waters of the qualifiers.

They might have been in any case, but all a county can do is to give itself the best possible chance of advancing as far as it can.

Instead, Offaly have given an open invitation to their qualifier opponents to come and get them.

It sure isn't the way Offaly did things in the good old days (1971-98) when Liam MacCarthy wintered with them four times and Sam Maguire stopped off on three occasions.

Irish Independent