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Mayo GAA and Tim O’Leary go their own ways

Sport

BENEFACTOR Mr Tim O’Leary, the chairman and founder of the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation which is to be wound down in the wake of last week’s parting of the ways with Mayo GAA.

A RELATIONSHIP that was teetering on the brink for some time came to an abrupt conclusion last week with the confirmation of a parting of ways between Mayo GAA and donor Tim O’Leary.
In the end it came down to one of the perils of modern society – social media usage – but to isolate it to just that would make one guilty of oversimplifying some very complex issues.
After Mayo’s nine-points defeat to Monaghan in the National League in Clones last Sunday week, Mr O’Leary took out his phone and fired off a tweet.
‘#Horanout We are not very good #TruthHurts always’ he messaged from Heathrow Airport in London before flying out after watching the England v Ireland Six Nations rugby clash.
That it came only days after he had tweeted ‘Horan is the best possible manager to get the maximum with the current group of players’ underlined the impulsive nature of his tweet on Sunday evening.
He did apologise on Monday morning, but the damage had been done.
The Mayo GAA executive’s actions were swift and decisive.
A statement late last Monday night from the Executive stated ‘they had ceased all dialogue’ with Mr O’Leary.
Perhaps it was the actions of a group who were waiting to cut the chord because there can be no doubt the relationship between O’Leary and some senior officers of the board had been strained — to say the least — since last summer.
It appeared there had been amicability more recently. On January 24 last a joint statement from Mayo GAA, Mr O’Leary and the Mayo GAA International Supporters’ Foundation, of which he was chairman, indicated a brighter future.
The statement said all three ‘can confirm that they have reached an agreement in respect of the dispute between the parties’ and that in doing so ‘all have accepted that the best interests of Mayo GAA had to come first so that a resolution could be found in the shortest time possible’.
Liam Moffatt, the new Chairman of Mayo GAA, confirmed he had offered Mr O’Leary and his family an apology ‘for any inappropriate and personal remarks towards him’ while Mr O’Leary also apologised for some of his own behaviour during the dispute.
However, the tweet on Sunday week last spelled the end for Mr O’Leary’s relationship with Mayo GAA. Perhaps a final warning might have worked, but perhaps the Mayo GAA Board just wanted a clean break after far too long in the spotlight and the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Most of it, it has to be stressed, of their own doing.
But there can be no escaping the fact that calling for James Horan’s head after a league loss in February was a fatal error on Tim O’Leary’s behalf. For a man in his position to attempt to undermine the manager of the senior football team of the county he has financially backed is dangerous territory, no matter the circumstances. While his apology and retraction the following day were no doubt sincere, he had crossed a line.
The question of the €250,000 raised in New York last May that he had withheld over concerns about governance by the Mayo GAA Board will now benefit others, such as Mayo Roscommon Hospice (who were donated €50,000) and Mindspace Mayo (donated €35,000), to name but two.
Whether the Board make an issue of this (was the money not raised in their name in New York?) or not remains to be seen.
Last night’s (Monday’s) county board meeting might reveal more but though €250,000 is a far from insignificant sum, it might best be put down to experience because the last thing anyone involved needs is any more protracted drama.
It is a pity it came to this. If things had been done differently/properly at the very start of this process, we would probably have never ended up at this point of no return.
No side is without fault in this whole sorry mess across the last number of months.
But it is crucial that lessons are learned by Mayo GAA to ensure the main talking point in the future is on-field matters.  

Edwin McGreal

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