By Kieran Galvin
While Athlone are preparing to face St Loman’s in the Westmeath U21 FC final this Saturday, a dispute over the ‘B’ competition at the same age group erupted at last week’s county board meeting.
St Malachy’s were due to face Tyrrellspass in the semi-final of the U21 ‘B’ championship (13-a-side) - but the club did not field when the game was fixed for the Tuesday night prior to their Intermediate final against Caulry. The U21 semi-final was arranged for Kinnegad on Tuesday night, October 1 - just five days before St Malachy’s faced Caulry in the intermediate final (which ended in a draw with Malachy’s winning the replay last weekend).
Officials from the St Malachy’ club were furious over the decision of the county board to award the U21 match to Tyrrellspass and to impose a hefty fine of €2,000 on the club.
At last week’s county board meeting, Ciaran Kirby (St Malachy’s secretary) tried to raise “a serious matter” in relation to an email the club had received from Pat Reilly (fixtures secretary of the county board).
However, Westmeath County Board chairman Sean Sheridan wouldn’t entertain Mr Kirby’s attempt to deal with this matter, saying the Competitions Control Committee (CCC) was the place to raise it.
A copy of the email was subsequently seen by the Westmeath Independent. The email reveals the decision of the CCC to award the game to Tyrrellspass. It was stated that, under rule 6.23 (c), the CCC imposed a fine of €2000 on the St Malachy’s club which was inclusive of the following: vouched expenses from the Tyrrellspass club; referee expenses; and loss of revenue from gate receipts.
The email also includes the Tyrrellspass view of the situation from one of their officials.
“Having previously made a request (which was rejected) to have the match deferred, Tyrrellspass team and mentors travelled to Kinnegad prepared to play the semi-final. We were aware that St Malachy’s were in Kinnegad for training and we were also informed that they would be playing. Tyrrellspass were disappointed that the game did not go ahead despite both teams being present. It was also disappointing for the large number of supporters who travelled to Kinnegad in poor weather conditions for the game,” stated a Tyrrellspass club official.
Tyrrellspass sought compensation for losses due to players’ expenses for travelling to Kinnegad from colleges in Sligo, Waterford, Carlow and Limerick. They also sought compensation for “having to pay expenses” to their physio and manager.
At last week’s county board meeting, Dermot Garvin (St Malachy’s) demanded to know how many fixtures in this year’s U21 FC had resulted in walkovers and how many clubs were fined as a result.
When an answer was not forthcoming, Mr Garvin said: “If you don’t want to answer, that’s grand; you’re hiding behind this things like the CCC.”
Sean Sheridan said there were “proper channels” for St Malachy’s to use, but Mr Garvin replied: “What’s the point discussing it if the decision is made?”.
Mr Sheridan said clubs wanted the U21 championship completed before the depths of winter as had been the case previously.
But Frank Kiernan (St Malachy’s) said his club had been shown “very little respect” by the decision to arrange an U21 match a few days before their “most important game of the year” (the intermediate final).
Paddy Whelehan (St Mary’s Rochfortbridge) said the board was being “very hard” on “an amateur club”.
Donie Glynn (Fr Dalton’s) said: “The GAA is meant to be promoting hurling and football ... we didn’t field in three games this year because there were football games on at the same time.”
“Were you fined?” asked a Malachy’s delegate somewhat sarcastically.
“Probably,” was the concise reply from the Fr Dalton’s man.
In the aftermath of last Saturday’s IFC final replay, St Malachy’s manager Peter Leahy was extremely critical of the way the club’s U21 team had been treated - and he claimed that nine of the players on the intermediate team were also on the U21 team.
*Athlone take on St Loman’s Mullingar in the U21 FC final in Kinnegad on Saturday (throw-in: 4pm), with the U21 ‘B’ FC final between Tyrrellspass and Killucan the curtain-raiser at 2pm.
*See this week’s Westmeath Independent for a preview of the U21 final between Athlone and St Loman’s and coverage of the Westmeath IFC final replay between Caulry and St Malachy’s.
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