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'There's two tiers in the GAA - one for the big counties and one for the wee counties'

Fermanagh football boss Ryan McMenamin was critical of the GAA as his Covid-hit side were relegated.

Fermanagh manager Ryan McMenamin.
Fermanagh manager Ryan McMenamin.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

FERMANAGH BOSS RYAN McMenamin says “there’s two tiers in the GAA — one for the big counties and one for the wee counties” after his side’s turbulent restart through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Erne county were relegated from Division Two of the National Football League today, after their preparations were thrown into disarray due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Clare were 1-11 to 1-9 winners at Cusack Park, and former Tyrone All-Ireland winner McMenamin feels the game should have been postponed after 10 players tested positive for the virus and several others were in self-isolation as a result.

“Look, it’s really only our fourth collective session, while a lot of teams have been training a lot, lot longer than we have,” he told BBC Sport afterwards in a wide-ranging interview.

“I’m proud of the lads. It’s a nightmare situation that no one wants to be in.

“I’ve been saying it all week but we’ve been told that the league is vital and the integrity has to be held up, but it’s really not whenever you have players training at different levels.

“For the first time this year, we had over 29 at training and that was on Friday night. We always said we’d go down to find our level and to see where we’re at, and I’m proud of the performance that the boys put in.”

McMenamin went on to explain the “crazy” and “odd” situation which led to just three substitutes being named when the Fermanagh team was released before the weekend.

We’re being asked by the GAA to produce a team sheet on Wednesday at 12 o’clock. In this pandemic, the managers at club and county, we’re just going day-by-day. We could lose anyone to a close contact, I think it happened Clare today, they had a couple of close contacts and lads couldn’t come. That’s the reason we released the 18.

“At that present time, I had 18 players going then. We sat down with the medical team, we trained on Friday night and we were able to add more boys in. We had 25 players down the road here last night. But again, our hands were tied. We had to release that.”

While McMenamin believes his side should have won today, he outlined the “glass half full, half empty” situation, detailed their experience with travel and Covid protocols, and stressed they would drive on from here.

When pushed for a message to those in authority in the GAA after the turbulent lead-up he and his side have faced ahead of their battle against relegation, the manager said:

ryan-mcmenamin-speaks-to-the-team McMenamin speaking to his team in 2018. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We always wanted to play the game and I totally appreciate the situation the GAA is in. I think it’s good for the well-being of this island that the GAA is played and it’s good that the GAA gets going too.

“I’m totally aware of the fact that there’s jobs and all at stake, the GAA is a massive employer and a lot of good stuff comes off the GAA that people don’t see behind the scenes. I am totally aware of that. 

“I am probably looking at the GAA and asking them this: look, instead of maybe walking over everybody, you have to be seen to help them out.

I made the point, there’s going to be two tiers in football next year but looking at it and what I’ve seen, there’s two tiers in the GAA. There’s one for the big counties and one for the wee counties.

“I’m just looking at Wexford, and I’m not picking them out, but the GAA were sent en masse to the Wexford hurlers and footballers, straight down to get them all tests to make sure they were all alright. I don’t know if the same opportunity was given to Leitrim and Terry Hyland.

Was that given to them? I don’t know, I just ask the question. The GAA is for everybody.”

McMenamin stressed that he feels there’s a big difference, but then added: “Look, I’m not giving out because I love the GAA and I don’t want to be one of these people that bash it. Too many people bash it.

“In the north of the island, it’s being criticised already. It’s been used as a punching bag, in my opinion, to some people. Some people take big shots at the GAA, I don’t want to do that.

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“But I want to say sometimes you do have to learn — I’m aware we’re in a totally fluid situation, but sometimes you just have to listen to what the smaller counties, and what the grassroots, are feeling and that’s my opinion.”

david-power Tipperary football boss David Power. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Meanwhile, Tipperary football manager David Power was vocal in criticism of Leitrim’s walkover ahead of their meeting next weekend. 

The Connacht county informed that Down that they were “unable to field a team” due to a number of players awaiting test results, and conceded yesterday’s Division Three clash.

Speaking to Tipp FM after the Premier county were 1-16 to 0-16 winners over Offaly, with a trip to Carrick On Shannon slated in for next weekend, Power said:

“I think what happened yesterday, there’s kind of a twist in it it because I think the results… if Offaly, Tipp and Leitrim finish on five points each, it only goes down to the result between the three teams.

“Look, I think what happened yesterday was very, very disappointing and probably really shouldn’t have happened in my eyes. The likes of Fermanagh were able to travel with 18 players down to Clare so I’m sure Leitrim could have got a team as well.”

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