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Galway boss hits back at LGFA president's dressing room comments as fallout continues

The Tribeswomen had only a seven-minute warm-up before their All-Ireland semi-final against Cork following a late venue change.

Updated Dec 7th 2020, 2:40 PM

GALWAY LADIES FOOTBALL manager Tim Rabbitt has hit back at suggestions from LGFA president Marie Hickey that his side could have been on the pitch earlier for their All-Ireland semi-final against Cork “had they not spent so much time in the dressing room.”

tim-rabbitte Galway manager Tim Rabbitt. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

In a statement to The42, Rabbitt outlined that Galway “spent the allotted time of 14 minutes in the dressing room, as per Covid regulations” which “is the minimum time we required and deserved,” shooting down Hickey’s comments, which, in turn, “add further insult to the way the Galway players and management were treated yesterday.”

We are looking for the LGFA to correct the statement and apologise to the Galway players for the way yesterday’s semi-final was handled,” Rabbitt added.

A statement, in full, from the Tribe boss reads:

“On our way to yesterday’s game we were contacted by the LGFA and asked would we play the game at an earlier time in Croke Park , due to Parnell being unavailable. We agreed but informed the LGFA that we would need sufficient time and that a 1 pm throw would not be feasible. We were given assurance that ample time would be provided once we arrived in Croke Park.

“We arrived at Croke Park at 12.39pm and entered the dressing room at 12.45 pm.

“We spent the allotted time of 14 minutes in the dressing as per Covid regulations, an LGFA official was at the door and informed us of the time remaining in our 14-minute slot every few minutes.

After traveling up from Galway and re-routing at short notice to Croke Park, this is the minimum time we required and deserved. We totally reject the suggestion from the LGFA president that we spent too much time in the dressing rooms meaning we had to cut short our warm up. This is untrue, and Ms Hickey has her facts wrong and adds further insult to the way the Galway players and management were treated yesterday.

“This was All-Ireland semi-final and a request for 10 more minutes to complete a sufficient warm up was not too much to ask but the treatment by LGFA officials and the referee was totally dismissive in their attitude.

“Again we wish Cork well and we hope there will be lessons learned.”

This development comes after experienced Tribe defender Sinéad Burke labelled Hickey’s response on Morning Ireland as “a punch in the guts.”

“It is very disappointing and disheartening to hear that,” Burke told Today with Claire Byrne, voicing her frustrations in detail. “I have so much time for the LGFA and have had amazing days with the Association, and to hear that being said, it is a punch in the guts.”

marie-hickey LGFA President Marie Hickey [file photo]. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Speaking on Morning Ireland beforehand, LGFA president Hickey said:

“Galway arrived to Croke Park at 12.30 and they then proceeded to the dressing rooms so they spent quite a bit of time in the dressing room, and then emerged out onto the pitch.

They would have had an opportunity to get out onto the pitch earlier had they not spent so much time in the dressing room.”

There was huge controversy surrounding the tie which was moved to Croke Park from its intended venue in Parnell Park after the Donnycarney pitch was deemed unplayable due to frost.

The game was also brought forward by 30 minutes from the scheduled throw-in time of 1.30pm. Galway were on their way to the capital when they received word of the change in venue while Cork were already in Dublin having stayed in a hotel overnight.

Both managers have hit out at the LGFA for how the logistics of the game were handled, with Ephie Fitzgerald calling it “a women’s issue” while Rabbitt says he regrets “that we didn’t walk off the pitch.”

Rabbitt also previously said the way his players were treated by LGFA officials was “disgraceful” and that they only had a seven-minute warm-up before the game where they suffered a 10-point loss.

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When asked if she was suggesting that it was Galway’s fault they were late to the pitch for their warm-up, Hickey said, “I didn’t say that,” before adding:

“They could have been out on the pitch earlier. Obviously, the time scheduling was tight and obviously it was difficult for us on the day to get the game in there in the first place.

“There’s no winners or losers in this, unfortunately. Our priority was player welfare to get the game played.”

Hickey explained that the LGFA were in a difficult position after the pitch in Parnell Park was ruled out, and says they were faced with the choice of either cancelling the game or trying to find a new venue.

She added that her association is grateful to the GAA for granting them the use of Croke Park at short notice, and said they felt they “we were doing something brilliant” by moving the game to GAA headquarters.

tim-rabbitte Galway manager Tim Rabbitt during yesterday's semi-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Remarking on the earlier throw-in time, Hickey said that a result was needed on the day, meaning that extra-time and possibly a “points shootout” would be needed to determine a winner. The All-Ireland SFC semi-final between Mayo and Tipperary was being played in Croke Park later that afternoon at 3.30pm which added to the time constraints.

When asked if the LGFA requested to push the other semi-final back, Hickey replied:

No to be honest we didn’t because we were so delighted to be getting in there in the first place. We just went with it and thought this was brilliant to be getting to play the game in Croke Park.”

It was also put to Hickey that the public reaction to yesterday’s events indicates that the women’s game isn’t treated seriously enough.

She denied that suggestion and also rubbished the idea that the LGFA should consider an official merger with the Camogie Association and the GAA to avoid such controversies in the future.

“I would argue that the integration has never been closer than it has been in the last couple of years,” she said. “We certainly have worked very closely with the GAA in the past number of years, and we have, as I said, secured county grounds for all of our inter-county games which would not have been the case a number of years ago.

“So, there is a huge amount of work going on, and a huge amount of co-operation going on between the bodies, but it’s when a glitch like this happens, people start pointing fingers and you don’t see the full picture that goes on for the rest of the year.”

- Additional reporting by Emma Duffy.

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