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Westport star ‘shocked’ by league decision

Sport

‘DISAPPOINTED’ Westport United captain Gary Cunningham. Pic: Michael Donnelly

Ger Flanagan

WESTPORT United captain Gary Cunningham has said he is ‘shocked’ and ‘disappointed’ at the decision by the Mayo League to void the 2020 season.
The announcement to officially cancel the season, which had been paused, was made by Mayo League chiefs last Friday after consultation with the Connacht FA and the FAI.
A statement said it was to ‘alleviate the uncertainty’ and to ‘allow everybody to prepare properly’  for 2021 season.
“It was a bit of a shock,” Gary Cunningham told The Mayo News last night.
“When I heard the news first, through e-mail and then a tweet, saying ‘the league is over and that’s it’, you’re questioning how this decision was made? Why was it made so early?
“Everyone is so disappointed and annoyed to say the least. That was the feeling in our WhatsApp group, and we still don’t know what is going on. We’d love to hear how that decision was made because there was no consultation with clubs.”
Westport United were sitting on top of the Super League table after eight wins from eight, three points ahead of Ballina Town, with six games remaining. The main cup competitions were at the semi-final stage.
The 2020 season began on July 18 last before being paused on October 4 due to Covid-19 restrictions. A decision was taken to extend the season until March 21 this year but the Mayo League decided that there was not ample time left to play out the remaining games.
“We do feel we should have been consulted,” offered the experienced Westport goalkeeper. “It should have been put to all the clubs to see what the feeling was around the place and to see what kind of reaction they got. I know we are in a different position to some, some of the clubs are fighting relegation, while we were in a good position to go on and win the league.
“So there was going to be different mentalities and opinions out there about finishing it, but just the fact that there was no consultation or no discussions with us is what is the most disappointing thing.
“We were in a good place with eight wins from eight,” he added. “We played 19 games and won 17, losing in the FAI Junior Cup and the Connacht Cup final, and the work we had to do to do that is not easy, so that’s more disappointment.
“I know the extension was up to March 21, but that was chopping and changing all the time since October. Everyone is adjusting and learning to live as best we can in the times we’re living in, so I do think that they should have waited a bit longer to make this decision.”
Cunningham added that the possibility of playing out the 2020 season at the beginning of the new season was an option they were open to exploring.
However, Mayo League chairman, Gerry Sweeney, has said he felt that there was no point in ‘leaving clubs up in the clouds’ ahead of the new season and they are still unsure as to when it can begin.
Speaking to Mid West Radio last Sunday, he said they ‘didn’t take the decision lightly’ but that it was ‘one we had to do’, adding that other leagues across the country in similar situations are also voiding their leagues.

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