HAPPIER TIMES Sarah Tierney (second from left) is pictured at the 2016 TG4 All Stars awards with Mayo team-mates Cora Staunton, Fiona McHale and Niamh Kelly. Pic: Sportsfile
FORMER Mayo ladies captain Sarah Tierney has hit out at the LGFA’s handling of the dispute which saw a dozen players leave the Mayo squad in 2018.
Tierney was among 12 Mayo players who quit the county panel in the middle of the 2018 season citing ‘player welfare issues.
Team selectors Michael McHale and Denise McDonagh also parted company with the panel, which was then managed by Westmeath native Peter Leahy.
Speaking exclusively to The Mayo News from her home in Australia, the Garrymore native said she felt the LGFA should have intervened earlier in the widely publicised dispute.
Tierney described the national governing body’s response to the debacle, which occurred almost four years ago, as ‘very disappointing.
“In my eyes, I don’t think it should have been made as public as what it was. I just think it’s really sad what happened. There were a lot of friendships destroyed in it all,” Tierney said via a Zoom call.
“I’m still really sad about it all. I’ve no regrets about leaving. If anything, I wish I left sooner to be honest.
“It just turned into a massive media storm, and I don’t think it should’ve been. I think the LGFA should have stepped in and tried to resolve it behind closed doors.”
Tierney, who has worked as an accountant in Sydney for the past three years, said that the fall-out from the dispute ‘affected every part’ of her life.
“I was working for Deloitte in Dublin, and I remember being called into a meeting and being asked about it. That shouldn’t have been the case, [football] was a hobby.
“It was a massive part of my life. I gave absolutely everything to football. The plan was to move back to Galway and work in Galway so that I’d be a bit closer to home. I was going to make a massive sacrifice to continue playing. It’s really sad the way it all panned out.”
Tierney, who played her last game for Mayo in the 2018 Connacht Final defeat to Galway, also criticised the way the Carnacon ladies were treated by the Mayo LGFA Board at the time and the media during the dispute.
Eight Carnacon players were among the twelve women who left the county panel in 2018, including vice-captain Fiona McHale and Mayo’s all-time leading scorer Cora Staunton.
“There were more people that left from different clubs, but it just wasn’t highlighted in the media,” Tierney said.
“I think the likes of Cora [Staunton] got an awful doing in the media and it wasn’t anything really to do with her. The media really just blew up and it shouldn’t have been what it was. I think the LGFA definitely should have stepped in sooner.”
She also described the County Board’s decision to throw Carnacon out of the 2018 Mayo senior club championship as ‘pathetic’. The decision was later reversed following an appeal by Carnacon, who went on to win the county title that year.
“That was all the clubs coming together to gang up and find a reason to knock Carnacon out,” she said. “If Carnacon were pulled out of the championship why weren’t Hollymount or why weren’t Castlebar? I think from their side they really messed up. It made it look really pathetic that they pulled a club out of a championship.”
The former Hollymount club player added that the LGFA refused to meet with her after she sought a meeting with the association prior to emigrating to Australia.
“Just before I came over here in December 2018, I actually asked to meet with the two LGFA officials, just to make sure something like this never happened again, but they refused to meet with me. It was really disappointing.
“I just felt we didn’t have a lot of support because obviously the county board backed management without even asking any of us what were the reasons.”
THE 30-year-old said she would ‘love’ to play for Mayo again and did not rule out a return to the green and red jersey.
“It was just not a nice way that it all ended. I do want to go back at some stage, I just have a really good job opportunity here at the moment, so I just probably need to just weigh up giving up a good job to go home and give it another shot.
“I turned 30 there last March, so I’m not getting any younger. It’s definitely still on the cards. I really, really miss it.
“As time has gone on, I’m still supporting the girls and watched them last season,” she added.
“I think the ladies championship is quite open at the moment. I just need to make a decision on when to come home.”
In a statement issued to The Mayo News, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association said: “We have huge respect for Sarah Tierney and her achievements as a Mayo inter-county player of renown.
“We wish Sarah well in her future endeavours but we are not in a position to comment on events which happened over four years ago.”