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Player cover-up for ‘unfit’ colleague

SENIOR players in the Clare hurling panel covered up for another player who was in “an unfit state” to tog out for a National Hurling League game last year.
And Ollie Baker, a member of Mike Mac’s backroom team, also alleges that the genesis of the player revolt was a backlash to management coming down hard on discipline.
Speaking exclusively to The Clare Champion, Baker declared, “The only thing that changed this year from our first year in charge was that we dealt strongly with discipline breaches. Nothing else changed”.
Disillusioned that it had come to the point where management had been shafted by the players, Baker said, “There was no room for compromise from the players in terms of any issues they had. It just seemed to be an agenda to get Mike Mac out. Since Mike got involved at minor level in ’89, he has been consistent in his approach which is that players work hard, train hard and give 100% and to do that requires dedication and commitment on the training ground.
“We certainly upped the stakes in last 12 months with regard to discipline. A number of players fell by the wayside because of this. It’s disappointing now that the players seem to have an issue with the stand we took on discipline,” he remarked.
Baker also defended the integrity of manager Mike Mac and coach, Alan Cunningham saying their good names had “been dragged through the mud” by a certain group of players “whose personal interests superseded the interests of Clare hurling”.
The former All-Star is also concerned that player power has taken a foothold in Clare.
“Player power has been knocking on the door in many counties and it came to the door in Clare this year. It exists and possibly has always existed but players have acted irresponsibly with the powers they showed this year.
“When we were playing hurling with club or county, there was always a respect for those that went before. That respect doesn’t seem to be with these players. The most celebrated manager and coach in Clare GAA have been dragged through the mud by a campaign waged in the media by a certain group of players.”
Referring to recent player meetings, Baker said a third of the panel were missing from the meetings and “their silence is the most deafening noise in all of this”.  
“It’s unknown what their beliefs are. It’s interesting that in the last two years, 20 players have been introduced to inter-county hurling by Mike Mac’s management.
“The same things happened both years as regards training and preparation. The only change was that we took a strong stance on discipline and we felt we had to do that for the sake of the young players coming through.
“Issues like non attendance at training without excuse, players missing training and socialising  instead and non commitment to training while at training, were issues we had to tackle throughout the year. At no stage did players voice disapproval with offending panel members,” claimed Baker.
Management’s premature departure has paved the way for another hero of the 1995 and 1997 All-Ireland victories, Ger O’Loughlin, to pick up the managerial reins. The Clarecastle man will be ratified at this Thursday night’s annual convention.

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