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Stephen Wallace's reign in charge of Offaly reaches crisis point as several players depart panel

The suspended Wallace watched from the stands as Offaly lost to Wicklow on Sunday.

RELATIONS BETWEEN STEPHEN Wallace and the Offaly players have reached an all-time low in the wake of their Leinster SFC defeat to Wicklow on Sunday.

The42 understands a number of players have left the panel ahead of their round 1 qualifier on 9 June. The squad are set to resume training tonight in Kilcormac, after which the situation of Wallace’s future and the departed players will become a little clearer.

Stephen Wallace pictured in the stand during todays game Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Wallace was appointed Offaly boss in last September, but his short tenure in charge has reached crisis point after several unsavoury incidents over the last month.

The Kingdom native watched Sunday’s 1-20 to 1-15 extra-time defeat from the stands due to the eight-week suspension handed down for his involvement in a melee during a Kerry IFC club game between Ardfert and John Mitchels in April.

Footage of the incident showed Wallace throwing a punch at a member of the John Mitchels coaching staff after a brawl broke out near the sideline during the game, and he was subsequently handed the lengthy ban by the Kerry CCC.

Offaly led Wicklow by 1-5 to 0-5 at half-time in the Leinster opening round, but an argument broke out in the dressing room which saw forward Nigel Dunne leave for the O’Moore Park car park. He returned to the substitutes bench for the second-half.

Offaly forward Nigel Dunne Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dunne, Offaly’s free-taker, had been surprisingly withdrawn in the 28th minute after a nervy start to the game where he missed three scoring opportunities.

He voiced his frustrations with management after his early withdrawal, as did 2017 captain Sean Pender who was called ashore for debutant Gerry Spollen four minutes into the second-half.

Dunne was reintroduced in the 53rd minute but missed a penalty five minutes later. On Twitter last night he refuted widespread reports that he was headed for his car after leaving the changing rooms at the interval.

After the game, former Offaly players Alan McNamee and Ruairi Allen voiced strong criticism of Wallace on Twitter, with their tweets liked by several players who were involved on Sunday.

Wallace’s reign has been marred by the absence of many of the best footballers in the county.

Veterans Niall McNamee and Brian Darby retired from inter-county duty last winter, while for various reasons Johnny Moloney, Graham Guilfoyle, Richie Dalton, Ken Casey, David Hanlon and Allen are not involved.

Injuries to key men Eoin Carroll, Peter Cunningham, Eoin Rigney and Joey O’Connor further weakened Wallace’s hand.

The Offaly manager made the curious decision to hand Ruairi McNamee his first championship start against Wicklow, despite the fact the Rhode youngster only returned weeks earlier from a stint in Australia.

There was another controversy in the form of Cian Johnson’s eligibility. The teenage star, who recently bagged 3-6 from play for his club Ferbane in an Offaly SFC game, was blocked from playing championship with the seniors this summer after an internal county board ruling stated he must play with the U20s instead.

Wallace made a big push for the county board to revise the ruling, but it his request was turned down.

Stephen Wallace Wallace during Offaly's draw with Sligo in the league Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Wallace’s behaviour on the sideline has also irked supporters. During the league draw with Sligo in Tullamore, he could be heard from the stands shouting verbal abuse at his team, something that did not sit well with the players.

Pressure is mounting on Wallace, but the Offaly county board are unlikely to remove him from his position at this stage of the season – unless there’s a significant player heave against him. Training tonight is likely to reveal more.

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Kevin O'Brien

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