War of Words

Dual players allegedly told they 'would never play for Cork again if they togged out for UCC'

Hannah Looney, Meabh Cahalane and Libby Coppinger were caught up in an unsavoury college v county row at the weekend.

THE ROW BETWEEN the UCC ladies football and Cork camogie teams over dual players has escalated after both camps added fuel to the fire on Sunday.

[image alt="pjimage" src="" width="500" height="500" credit-source="Inpho" caption="Hannah%20Looney%2C%20Libby%20Coppinger%20and%20Meabh%20Cahalane" class="aligncenter" /end]

UCC were forced to play their O’Connor Cup semi-final without key players Meabh Cahalane and Hannah Looney on Saturday, with the pair lining out in Cork’s Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Division 1 semi-final win over Limerick on Sunday instead.

Libby Coppinger, who is also on both squads, played for UCC in their loss to UL and as a result didn’t appear for the county side against Limerick in CIT the following day.

Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray told Red FM on Sunday evening the three dual players were informed by UCC they could lose their scholarships if they didn’t line out for the college in the All-Ireland semi-final at IT Blanchardstown.

In response, UCC boss Shane Ronayne told the same radio station that Cahalane, Looney and Coppinger were warned by county management they “would never play for Cork camogie again if they togged out for UCC this weekend.”

[image src="" width="630" height="364" credit-source="Inpho" caption="UCC%20ladies%20football%20manager%20Shane%20Ronayne" class="aligncenter" /end]

Ronayne also confirmed “there will be an investigation in UCC” over the decision taken by Cahalane and Looney not to appear for the college side, with their scholarships potentially at risk.

“We’re not going to be pushing for those players to be punished, but the college itself spends huge money on scholarships,” he said.

“They are investing in their education and futures, both academically and on the sporting field. They will definitely be looking at it. I can’t comment on what the college are going to do and I’m not talking about UCC GAA, I’m talking about the college authorities.”

Murray, meanwhile, has said that Coppinger “has got to fight her way back” into the Cork side after she was left out of the team yesterday.

The war of words between the parties began after UCC’s O’Connor Cup exit on Saturday night, when Ronayne stated Cahalane and Looney were pulled from the college squad by Murray.

[image alt="Libby Coppinger and Joanne Moore" src="" width="630" height="485" credit-source="Inpho" caption="Libby%20Coppinger%20in%20action%20for%20Cork%20ladies%20footballers" class="aligncenter" /end]

After Cork booked their place in the league final with a win over Limerick on Sunday, Murray responded to those claims by alleging the players were threatened with their scholarships if they didn’t tog out for UCC.

“I’m disappointed with UCC,” Murray told Red FM.

“What did UCC do to see if they could get the O’Connor Cup changed? I would think nothing. Do they threaten the male footballers or hurlers with exams and grants the way they have done with our girls? Did these girls get texts yesterday morning threatening them with their scholarships?

“I genuinely think UCC did nothing because they always thought that by playing that card, they would force girls onto a bus yesterday morning. They received texts and verbal threats and unless their parents or they themselves are lying to me, that’s what happened.

“We had 18 players togged out today so that’s how short we were. We had 10 players injured last Tuesday night and we’d Laura Tracey who had to play today as we no-one to replace her, she had the vomiting for the last two days.

“We have sponsors that paid good money to us. If we turned up today with 15 players, I don’t think it looks good on our team.

“We had a national league semi-final today. Having 18 players doesn’t really look good on us. I have never threatened the players. We have a very professional set-up here and all I do is try to do the very best for female athletes.”

[image alt="Paudie Murray talks to his side after the game" src="" width="630" height="420" credit-source="Inpho" caption="Cork%20camogie%20boss%20Paudie%20Murray" class="aligncenter" /end]

Murray said the potential fixture clash was highlighted at the start of the year and nothing was done to address it.

“This was flagged on the second of January,” he explained. “We spoke to the players that were involved with the O’Connor Cup. We told them there was a situation that if we went to a league semi-final there would be a clash that weekend.

“At a WGPA meeting in Croke Park I brought it to the attention of the ladies football and camogie associations, but nothing was done. I even went as far last week to request our intermediate game today would be played yesterday to allow intermediate players come with us today.”

UCC boss Ronayne fired back on Sunday evening, saying: “There was no way the ladies football could have accommodated because of the way things are. There’s an All-Star tour on next week which involves a lot of those players so there was no way the thing was going to be moved.”

[image alt="Meabh Cahalane" src="" width="413" height="500" credit-source="Inpho" caption="Meabh%20Cahalane%20lining%20out%20for%20UCC%20camogie%20side" class="aligncenter" /end]

On the scholarship issue, he said: “UCC give out scholarships to elite players. When you sign up and get one of those scholarships with UCC, there are requirements to be involved with committees and things like that, but you have to represent the college if you’re fit and able to play.

“Those two girls were on scholarships with UCC and they did sign up to the terms of the scholarship. It’s a bit like a contract in a professional sense that way. They get very well rewarded for the scholarship and yesterday they were reminded of their obligation that part of their contract was they would have to represent their college if they were able to play.

“The college are going to have to have a look at that. One of the players is on a very, very big scholarship. The authorities in UCC will be looking into it.

“There are mitigating factors because that threat was made that their inter-county careers would be over and maybe that will be looked at. There will be an investigation in UCC over it because UCC can’t afford to play huge money every year to players and then when the championship comes around those players are not available.”

[image alt="University of Limerick v University College Cork- Gourmet Food Parlour HEC O'Connor Cup Semi-final" src="" width="630" height="478" caption="Coppinger%20and%20some%20UCC%20team-mates%20after%20their%20defeat%20on%20Saturday" class="aligncenter" /end]

Ronayne added that the players were in a very difficult position as Murray informed them their inter-county careers were at stake if they chose college over county at the weekend.

“He (Murray) repeated the threat to me – that those players would never play for Cork camogie again if they togged out for UCC this weekend,” said Ronayne.

“That’s the threat that was made to those players. I couldn’t believe the threat had been made. When I spoke to Paudie I asked him to clarify it and he said, ‘Yes’.

“He said one player will never play for Cork again. He didn’t name her but I do know who it was, because she told me herself, and there would be severe consequences for Libby.

“The other two players were told they would never play for Cork again if they played for UCC. That’s what Hannah Looney put up in the players’ group on Friday night.

“Their inter-county careers were at stake. This isn’t me blowing up the situation, that’s what happened. A parent of one of the players contacted me yesterday and said she feared for her daughter’s inter-county career if she had played with us yesterday. What was done to those players this week was outrageous.”

[image alt="Hannah Looney with Colette Dormer" src="" width="630" height="492" credit-source="Inpho" caption="Hannah%20Looney%20in%20last%20September's%20All-Ireland%20camogie%20final" class="aligncenter" /end]

Ronayne is also manager of the Tipperary ladies football team and says he had no issue with allowing his Premier players focus on their college commitments when they had a fixture clash earlier in the season.

“This was a championship match, an All-Ireland semi-final. I’m a county manager as well with Tipperary ladies football. The Ashbourne final weekend clashed with a league match we had against Tyrone, but I travelled to that without three of my best players and there was no issue. I knew the players were playing in the Ashbourne weekend and we had that planned into our schedule.”

Finally, Murray alleged a member of his backroom team received “vile and drunken texts” at “two and three o’clock” on Sunday morning from the UCC management.

Ronayne refuted that claim: “I take serious issue with that. A text was sent to one of their selectors wishing him luck today, it was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

“There was no abusive text sent. There was a remark passed about why the players weren’t released today, that they had enough players for today’s game. There was no abuse, they certainly were not drunken and they were not at two or three o’clock in the morning.”

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