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Comment: More Questions Than Answers After Hurling Review

Derrick Lynch

From the outset, let it be noted that no one is questioning the fact that the officers of Clare GAA are hard working volunteers who sacrifice a huge amount of time in the execution of their duties. That is an indisputable and accepted fact.

That being said, there are a number of worrying and disappointing issues arising out of last week’s annual Convention that are simply not good enough. Let me make this very clear. This is by no means a personal attack on any individual officer but there are points which must be raised and questioned.

The most disappointing aspect on the night has to be the failure of any member of the executive, or indeed club delegates, to pay tribute to the late Kieran Harvey. At the time of his passing, the O’Curry’s clubman was the sitting chairman of the Clare Ladies Football board and deserved to have his achievements noted and his family sympathised with. His passing was marked at the Clare Camogie convention where he was credited with forging a closer bond between the two associations, while the tributes were understandably widespread at his own association’s annual gathering. Kieran Harvey was an outstanding GAA man, regardless of the code, and it would only have been right and fitting to mark his passing. It may have been an innocent slip of the mind that led to this not happening, but that doesn’t make it right. I am sure there was a large Clare GAA presence at Kieran’s funeral and that is to be commended, but Convention is the official forum where it should also have been noted. The official minutes of the 2019 Convention will not feature Kieran Harvey’s name, and that is a shame.

The other massive disappointment is the manner in which the review of Clare hurling was dealt with. A full and frank review was promised and this was also promised to materialise before the clubs of the county would sit down to reflect on the year just passed. That deadline was missed, with a ten page document being distributed to delegates as they signed in for last week’s Convention. It outlined the background to the review which was requested by Ruan delegate Ger Lyons, and it went on to spend nine of the ten pages going through the various development squads. The section which most people were looking forward to, the adult review, comprised of roughly a page and a half. Even leaving aside the obvious error which crowned Tipperary as 2017 All-Ireland champions, something our neighbours in Galway will no doubt challenge, the whole report on the adult team contained little or no detail of any value or relevance.

This is encapsulated in the opening line which states: “A number of meetings was (sic) held with players, past players and various individuals who had been involved at all levels in our Association, including personal (sic) who served as team managers and played many different roles at both club and county level”.

This was supposed to be a report which would provide detail and clarity and a roadmap for the future. Surely the obvious questions for people to ask would be as to how many meetings were held, who are the people that were spoken to, who were the people speaking to them and what were the conclusions from those discussions? It seems obvious, but none of that detail is included.

The report states that results were poor at minor and U-21 level since the heady days of three U-21 All-Ireland titles in a row, but that recent performances would suggest that the gap has decreased somewhat. It also states that people were concerned about three results in 2019 in particular, namely the National League quarter-final loss to Waterford (0-31 to 1-14), and the championship losses to Tipperary (3-21 to 0-17) and Limerick (1-28 to 0-13). There is also a reference to the fact that Clare were unlucky not to be in the 2018 All-Ireland final having only lost out to then defending champions Galway after a replay.

The summation of this section is the most baffling. It states:

“On the other hand, Tipperary won the All-Ireland Hurling Final in 2017 and failed to even qualify for the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland series in 2018 and I suppose now we know Tipp have recovered and won the 2019 final also. So here is hoping our 2020 campaign will be replicated on the Tipperary 2019 performance. The loss of Peter Duggan in the early part of 2020 is a bit of a disappointment but hopefully he will return early in the New Year and we can return to winning ways as it has already been proved our players are capable of reaching the summit as a team”.

Firstly, Galway won the All-Ireland in 2017. Secondly, surely there has to be more insight than simply saying “Sure look, didn’t Tipp manage to win the All-Ireland after having a poor season the previous so we will just try that”. Thirdly, outlining that Peter Duggan is a loss in the early part of 2020 but hoping he returns early in the New Year is confusing to say that least. Is the early part of 2020 and early in the New Year not the exact same time period? And in any respect, basing the hopes of success on the return of one player, who admittedly is an exceptional talent, is not fair on either Peter Duggan or the group that are embarking on the 2020 campaign.

The final section deals with the meetings held between the chairman and a group of senior players, and once more the lack of details is obvious. It reads:

“Joe Cooney contacted some of the more senior players in the current squad with regard to their views on the management structure as substantial and varied views were being expressed on the above topic. The sentiment expressed by the individuals contacted was that players supported the existing management and structures. However, around the latter part of September, a more representative group of players (6 in all) met with the chairman in Clareabbey for approximately two hours. Joe had an in-depth discussion on a number of key issues relating to various aspects of inter-county activity. Seosamh Ó Cunaí felt it was a very fruitful meeting where a number of very important matters were discussed in a frank and open way which was of benefit to both sides”.

Firstly, what does the term “more representative group of players” mean as opposed to the initial group of people contacted? Secondly, what were the key issues discussed, what were the number of very important matters that were discussed, and how were they of benefit to both sides? If this was to be a review that would provide an in-depth look at Clare hurling for the future, surely those details should be outlined rather than the vague manner in which they addressed.

There are numerous issues which were not discussed or addressed in this review.

  • The issues which led to Donal Moloney withdrawing his name from the race.
  • The issues which led to Louis Mulqueen withdrawing his name from the race.
  • The issues raised in the player’s statement surrounding their concerns with being left out of the process.
  • Any details on the managerial appointment process from the time the season ended in June until Brian Lohan being announced as the new boss. It is not referenced once in the document.
  • What plans have been put in place to ensure that the debacle witnessed this summer in appointing a Clare senior hurling manager is never seen again?
  • What were the circumstances surrounding Fergal Lynch’s decision to withdraw from the race to be minor manager, and subsequent decision to allow his name back in again?

They are all legitimate questions based on details which do not appear in the review produced at Convention.

Let me state again. None of the questions or none of the commentary in this piece is in any way attacking any member of the Clare GAA executive, voluntary or otherwise. They are simply questions which the Clare GAA public deserve answers to and should be given.

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