Thursday 17 October 2019

Faithful feud feels familiar

LIES! Subertfuge! Scandal! Where would you get it, only Offaly? Not since Babs Keating labelled his shorn herd "sheep in a heap" back in 1998 and the entertaining kerfuffle that followed has the Faithful County been so torn and ripped apart by controversy.

If one was to be optimistic (and we don't mean to generalise, but denizens of the proud Midlands county have never been widely noted for such sunny thinking), Offaly do have previous when it comes to successful mid-season patch jobs.

Thirteen years ago after Babs' untimely outburst, an unknown special agent (the name's Bond...Michael Bond) came in and subsequently led the hurlers to unlikely All-Ireland glory, but given the public utterances emanating from the trenches of the civil war engulfing the county, we're not inclined to hold our breath of a repeat of the 1998 Offaly renaissance.

That the issue over the perceived shoddy treatment of the county's hurlers came in Joe Dooley's third and, in most people's eyes, final year in charge makes his statement over the staging of some future matches in Birr mostly redundant. But the statement from the county board that they will address the issue "when -- and only when -- we complete our current Liam MacCarthy Cup campaign" wouldn't exactly inspire confidence. Are we to assume, then, that they will not be making any comment until after the first Sunday in September should Offaly repeat their 1998 trick?


Enter -- inadvertently it must be added -- the Offaly footballers, no strangers themselves to turmoil after their ousting of Richie Connor as manager back in 2009. The panel, who flopped spectacularly to Wexford in the first round of the Leinster championship, at O'Connor Park of all places, were painted as football's version of 'The Spice Boys', Liverpool's hard-partying, white-suit-wearing team of the mid-90s.

In sticking up for Dooley and his panel, Michael Duignan, another of the '98 flock, unwittingly sparked a completely different row with football manager Tom Cribben.

"There's discipline issues with the footballers in this county," said Duignan, attempting to paint the hurlers in a much more wholesome light by comparison. "They don't want to train, they have no pride in their jersey, they're going on the beer and all that sort of thing."

Predictably, Cribben issued a rebuke but not -- it must be said -- one wholly exonerating his charges.

"He is completely out of order there," he began, before adding: "I'll be honest, I have had issues with a couple of players -- but only a couple of players."

Duignan softened his thesis somewhat but reiterated the sentiment.

"To be fair, I didn't mean all the footballers," he retorted. "But there are a number who aren't treating the jersey with the respect it deserves."

Duigan insisted that "quite a number of the team" had been "partying openly around the town" of Tullamore. "

To me, that is not acceptable behaviour and, if Tom thinks it is, the best of luck to him."

Something is indeed rotten in the state of Offaly.

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