Monday 18 December 2017

Mahon drained by bitter bonus battle

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WHETHER Tallaght Stadium lies idle tonight or not, the events of the last 48 hours are set to resound around Richmond Park for a while to come.

In a week when the two Rovers -- Sligo and Shamrock -- can boast full houses for their European ties, the Saints have been embroiled in a row over bonuses and compensation with players who have gone to the corners of Europe -- and beyond.

They have flown the club's flag proudly and returned home with results that have raised the Saints' profile and reputation, as well as bringing in much-needed prize money to the club.

What was a good-news story has become a public relations disaster -- even though the club and the players appeared to be moving closer to resolution last night. The players and PFAI could be accused of brinksmanship by threatening to pull the plug on the club's biggest game of the season, which would cost them a small fortune in prize money, fines and compensation.

However, some of the squad have had to take time off from work, swap days with colleagues and cancel planned holidays. Some have also lost money as a result of their on-pitch endeavours and feel they deserve the compensation they are demanding.

Weighed against the €270,000 in prize money that the club will receive at the end of the season, the figure of €47,500 the players are looking for appears quite small, but at the moment, given the travel costs St Pat's have endured to get to Iceland, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine -- the cash flow around Inchicore can't be in the best shape.

The Saints weren't even supposed to be in Europe this season -- they were handed a place when Sporting Fingal went bust.

Instead of being in bonus territory, they are rowing about their bonuses.

Tonight they are scheduled to face Karpaty Lviv, who played in the Europa League group stages last season and operate in a different world.

Before he scored the winning goals in both of the previous ties, Derek Doyle spent his day in his uncle's warehouse lifting boxes and putting in his shift. For the visiting Ukrainian internationals and their team-mates from Brazil, Spain and beyond, that would be unthinkable.

The club have yet to release a statement or make a comment on the situation and manager Pete Mahon was left to face the media alone yesterday in the unenviable position of keeping players and club happy with his comments.

No one from the club was present to comment, while budget cuts are such that the club were struggling to get a representative to the table last night for showdown talks with the players and the PFAI because they had to welcome Lviv at the airport as part of UEFA procedures.

Things are being done on a shoestring and while the players have punched above their weight on the pitch, they feel they have been let down off it. Mahon, their usually upbeat, if outspoken, manager looked drained by the saga and while he was confident his players would fulfil the fixture, the situation was clearly getting to him.

"I think I know the players better than anybody. They've been professional all along, but this is something outside my control. I can't resolve this," he said.

"I'm the same as the players. I'm a paid employee of the club. I think I've done my job and I think the players have done their job."

It was impossible not to feel sorry for a man who has done a fantastic job since he was hired three seasons ago to rescue a well-paid team on the slide after Jeff Kenna's reign.

Since then he has had his budgets slashed, but his team have competed fiercely and although their challenge faded towards the end of last season, they are still firmly in the league title race this time around, still in the FAI Cup and have done their job in Europe so far.

All of that is now in jeopardy, as no matter what happens this evening, the fallout and bitterness from this affair will be difficult to heal.

Irish Independent

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