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'It was like a personal attack that evening': Former Mayo captain gives specifics on welfare issues

Sarah Tierney spoke last night and explained her reasons for leaving Peter Leahy’s panel.

FORMER MAYO CAPTAIN Sarah Tierney, one of the 12 players who departed the panel earlier this summer, has specified exactly why she, and the group, left Peter Leahy’s set-up.

Noelle Healy tackled by Sarah Tierney Sarah Tierney in action earlier this year. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Last night the departed 14, which includes two members of the management team, held a press conference and this morning, they released a lengthy statement detailing their reasons for leaving, echoing their previous “player welfare issues”.

“Ultimately our issues related to a lack of communication, being undermined, intimidated, feeling isolated and eventually helpless in the entire situation,” it read.

“The whole experience had a significant impact on our mental health.”

Hollymount defender Tierney was singled out in the statement, noting that she has “endured an extremely difficult relationship with the Mayo manager over the 2018 season.”

And at last night’s press conference, she detailed the departed group’s reasoning for leaving and shared personal experiences, getting emotional while doing so. 

“We didn’t leave because of Cora and we didn’t leave because of selection issues,” Tierney explained in audio broadcast on Off The Ball AM on Tuesday.

“For me personally, I would have noticed negativity in [Leahy's] management style from the outset of the year.

“I’ll give you a few examples. I was actually late returning to the Mayo panel this year. I returned on 12 January. I was sitting exams so I was away. When I returned to the panel, we had training on the first night. To give you a brief background, I had a very good relationship with Peter when he was involved with us in 2017, and 2013 when he was involved with us previously.

“My first night back, the majority of the training was all running. I just said a passing comment to him, being like, ‘Jesus Peter, is it going to be all running tonight or will there be any football?’

“I didn’t mean anything malicious by it, it’s not my character. The following night I received a phone call from Peter about the comment I made and he basically attacked me on the phone.

“He basically said he didn’t give an f how many All-Stars I had or what name I had made for myself in football. That he was the manager and what he said goes this year.

“He didn’t care what name anyone had, that he would have no problem dropping someone that stepped out of line.

mayo Source: Jacqui Hurley Twitter.

“He also said to me that he would be making a phonecall to Marie Corbett about her behaviour and that it was inappropriate at training.

“The tone and the context of this conversation kind of set the tone for the year ahead and any encounters that I had with him.

“Obviously my role as captain, I was going to him with questions and comments and it was constantly thrown back in my face — negative comments about my personality or about my performance.”

She went on to share further examples of incidents through the year, one in particular after she had suggested that Leahy bring in a past player or guest coach to talk through issues in the side’s defence.

Leahy took it on board, but days later it arose again.

“I’ll never forget it. He gave me the ‘curly finger’ as he called it and summons me out of the room,” Tierney recounted.

“I knew what was coming. I was brought away from all players, from all of management. It was like a personal attack that evening, I can only describe it as I’ve never felt so intimidated in all my life.

“He basically said to me I was getting absolutely roasted at training, that I was performing absolutely shite, that the reason I was distracted the previous night at training is because I was so caught up with going to him with this suggestion of bringing this guest player in. 

“He was doing this action – ‘You’re listening to the others, you’re listening to the others’ – and I was standing back. He was getting visibly aggressive with me at this stage. It was probably the first time that I stood up to him and said, ‘Who are these others you’re referring to? I don’t understand what you’re on about.’

“The conversation ended that night, but I swore driving home that night from training that I’d not be in a one-on-one situation with him again unless the liaison officer was there. I felt totally intimidated.”

She later added: “This in my eyes is not acceptable.

Mayo panel Before last year's All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Throughout the year I’ve had a really difficult relationship with the manager. I can honestly say it was repetitive, it wasn’t a one-off occurrence and on a number of occasions it was overly aggressive.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve this. I feel like my role of captain, I couldn’t execute it to the best of my ability. I was being undermined, I felt isolated, paranoid, intimidated and I started to lack hugely in my own self-confidence because of it.

“I feel that in my role in captain it’s within my right to ask and demand the best. I felt like I was constantly, constantly shot down.

“I’m just really upset and disappointed by it all. I just felt I had no other option but to step away from Mayo football.”

Mayo LGFA have since broken their silence with a strong statement in defence of Leahy, hitting back at claims made by the departed 14 last night.

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Emma Duffy

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