The inter-county split of Mayo Ladies’ Footballers has caused a great deal of controversy since welfare issues led to the exodus of fourteen panel members.
Here is a brief breakdown of the story so far:
24 September 2017: The Mayo Ladies were beaten 4-11 to 1-11 by Dublin in the All-Ireland Final. 11-time All Star Cora Staunton temporarily left the Mayo setup to pursue a career in Aussie Rules football.
November 2017: Peter Leahy appointed as Mayo coach taking over from Frank Browne.
June 2018: Staunton returns to training with Mayo squad ahead of Connacht final against Galway. Mayo are beaten by Galway in Connacht final. Staunton is said to have defied managerial orders and taken free-kick duties from Sarah Rowe.
July 5, 2018: Peter Leahy reveals a call from a club secretary informing him that all eight members of that club were withdrawing from the county panel on the grounds of player welfare.
July 10, 2018: Up to 10 players leave Mayo panel days before Championship opener against Cavan. The players release a short statement saying:
“We have stepped away from the Mayo panel for player welfare issues that are personal and sensitive to the players involved. Out of respect to the girls playing at the weekend and ourselves, we will not be commenting further. We wish the Mayo team well with their game on Saturday.”
July 12, 2018: Mayo Executive Board release a statement claiming the management team has adhered to all protocols and guidelines set out at the beginning of their tenure.
“The Executive Board of Mayo LGFA is acutely aware of the critical importance of player welfare. Player wellbeing is fundamental to all coaching and management structures.
“A comprehensive programme is in place to ensure that all Mayo players can train and perform in a safe and supportive environment and all necessary resources have been made available to enable the Mayo Senior Ladies compete with the very best in the country.”
July 13, 2018: Cora Staunton refuses to comment on walkout out of respect for teammates.
July 14, 2018: Peter Leahy releases a statement after win over Cavan in response to player exodus.
— Cormac O'Malley (@cormacpro) July 14, 2018
July 17, 2018: Forward Sarah Rowe comes out in support of the management team in an interview with the Examiner.
“For all of us playing we are very very happy with the management. Very supportive, approachable, tough, tough, tough on us, of course, but that’s their job,” said Rowe.
“Their job is to coach, they always give constructive criticism to us all, and it has only made us stronger and better players. I’m fully behind management, I think they’re a brilliant set-up. Unbelievable.”
July 18, 2018: Mediation talks take place in Castlebar with an independent mediator, Mark Small. Relevant parties were split into four groups – members of the county board, management team, players who left the panel and players who were still with the panel in four separate rooms.
July 26, 2018: Mayo selector, Mick Reynolds tells Independent that mediation talks between the management teams and players have failed and they will be continuing on through the championship with the remaining panel.
“They had to sign a confidentiality agreement based on it, but as far as I’m told the results of mediation were inconclusive and we’re moving ahead with the panel of players we have.”
August 13th, 2018: Leahy admits the team have gone through a lot of turmoil following their championship exit to Galway:
“It was a disappointing way to go out and conceding five goals is disappointing. The best team won and there is no question about that,”
“We have gone through an awful lot of turmoil with what has gone on. But we have sorted an awful lot of problems out. We have now gone through 17 players who have had their championship debut this year.”
August 22nd 2018: All-Ireland club champions Carnacon are thrown out of Mayo championship as a direct result of county panel fall out. Carnacon is the club of 8 of the 12 walkouts. Mayo clubs vote 26-2 in favour of banishing Carnacon.
August 30th 2018: Carnacon win appeal and are reinstated into Mayo championship. Cora Staunton appears on OTB live show and claims there is a witch-hunt against her club:
“We’re a small rural club that’s probably been punching above our weight for the last two decades and maybe that’s why we’re being punished”.
September 4th 2018: In a statement issued, the remaining players said “no player welfare issues exist or have ever existed under the current management” led by Peter Leahy, and they “categorically disagree” with that claim which was made when 12 players left the squad.
September 5th 2018: Mayo LGFA confirm they will appeal the decision to reinstate Carnacon into the championship. Mayo clubs voted 30-3 in favour of taking appeal forward.
September 6th, 2018: Cora Staunton denies that there was an attempted coup to oust Leahy in an interview with OTB AM.
“There was never a coup wherever this came out of. The environment for us wasn’t right within the county set-up, we didn’t feel it was a safe environment to be in so we decided to leave,”
“The 14 people that left the senior team in July all left for the same reason… I think that’s been lost out there. It’s nearly a witch-hunt on the club at this stage, which is very sad.
“It’s nearly like a vendetta, we’re being penalised for walking away. It’s ridiculous that you’re playing amateur sport and being punished for walking away from something.”
September 12, 2018: Leahy appeared on The GAA Hour and suggested that the departure stemmed from a selection issue.
He also said that Staunton’s “unsafe” accusations were also close to “slanderous”.
"These are close to slanderous accusations being put out there and it's not fair on my management team"
— The GAA Hour (@TheGAAHour) September 14, 2018
September 17, 2018: 12 Mayo players call a press conference on Monday night, led by former county captain Sarah Tierney and inviting just RTE and Virgin Media, outline their issues and reason for quitting the squad. They also release a statement signed by all 12 players:
“Ultimately our issues related to a lack of communication, being undermined, intimidated, feeling isolated and eventually helpless in the entire situation”.
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) September 18, 2018
September 18, 2018: By Tuesday lunch time though, the Mayo ladies board acted quickly to come out and support their manager once more and it was extensive support. In the statement, they outlined their desire to see Peter Leahy in charge for 2019, that the issues of the players related to management style and that:
“this was an orchestrated and calculated statement designed to create maximum impact, and garner maximum headlines.”
Later that night, reports suggested that Carnacon have been allowed to remain in the Mayo club championship, but will be fined €500.
The eight players who left the county panel will also be suspended.