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Galway mess continues and points to major issues at board level

All three candidates to become Galway hurling boss have now dropped out of the race.

Galway selectors' Francis Forde and Noel Larkin dejected with manager Michael Donoghue after their 2018 All-Ireland final defeat.
Galway selectors' Francis Forde and Noel Larkin dejected with manager Michael Donoghue after their 2018 All-Ireland final defeat.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

GALWAY GAA HAS been plunged deeper into crisis with the news that all three candidates for the vacant hurling manager role have now withdrawn from the race to replace Micheál Donoghue.

Galway Bay FM Sport reported today that Noel Larkin and Francis Forde have followed former U21 and camogie manager Tony Ward in removing their names from the process.

Larkin and Forde worked as selectors under outgoing boss Donoghue for all four years of his reign. Their decision to drop out of the running leaves Galway chiefs in a predicament.

The county board were expected to interview all three candidates this week, but must now head back to the drawing board as they attempt to have a manager in place by the time pre-season training begins next month. 

The unwillingness of Larkin and Forde to work with Galway chairman Pat Kearney is reportedly the reason for their decision to pull out of the race.

The circumstances surrounding the surprise departure of 2017 All-Ireland winning boss Donoghue back in August are still unclear, but a fall-out with the board is understood to have been the primary reason he stepped down with a year on his term still left to run.

It’s believed that Donoghue was unhappy with the funds being made available for team preparations heading into next season.  

Donoghue notably did not acknowledge the county board during his departing statement.

Former football boss Kevin Walsh also hinted at a disagreement with Galway officials in his resignation statement in September.

“I would like to see the recommendations in our reports to the county board which included facilities and equipment, operations, alignment and development of underage teams through to senior level, finance, competition structures, player development and welfare, medical screening and deep level coaching continue to be implemented in the interests of Galway football going forward,” he said.

Reading between the lines, it would suggest Walsh was concerned at the resources being provided for Galway to compete at the highest level.

kevin-walsh-and-shane-walsh Galway manager Kevin Walsh and Shane Walsh ahead of their qualifier clash against Mayo. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The section of his statement quoted above was omitted when it was posted on the Galway GAA website, although it was subsequently added in.

The three names put forward to replace Walsh are Pádraic Joyce, Matt Duggan and Liam Kearns, with interviews taking place last night.

Two-time All-Ireland winner and Connacht winning U20 boss Joyce is the leading contender and has former county team-mate and UCD Sigerson Cup winning manager John Divilly as part of his backroom team.

Former Tipperary manager Liam Kearns and Galway junior boss Matt Duggan were the other two names put forward for the position.

While Galway continue their search for managers of their flagship football and hurling teams, the county has also been involved in a high-profile spat with main sponsors Supermacs.

A statement from the fast-food retailers last week publically questioned how the county have spent almost €1.6million in sponsorship money over the past five years. 

Galway responded, noting their disappointment and surprise at “this kind of unprecedented statement.”

It comes off the back of years of serious financial mismanagement by the Galway county board. Last year the GAA commissioned an independent audit by accounting firm Mazars to look into Galway’s finances. A separate, internal audit was completed in 2018 but the results were not made public. 

At last December’s county convention, county board treasurer Mike Burke highlighted the “serious abuse” of the Galway GAA credit card for personal expenses in 2016 which ran up a €45k bill, while the county also racked up a ticket debt in excess of €400,000 to Croke Park and took over a year to pay it back.

In addition, a site purchased in Athenry in 2006 intended for the development of a centre of excellence was sold at a loss of almost €2m last year. 

It all points to poor governance at board level. Unless Galway can make changes at the top, their problems look set to continue. 

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Kevin O'Brien

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