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Down secretary hits back with bizarre rant at media

By Declan Bogue

Down GAA county secretary Sean Óg McAteer has launched a bizarre rant against the media after the recent travails of the county senior football team.

In an email that was addressed to the clubs in Down and subsequently forwarded to the Belfast Telegraph, McAteer - a full-time paid county official - states: "Over these past two weeks, our players and senior football team manager, the county officers and Down GAA as a whole have been subjected to some vile and unfair commentary and misrepresentation on radio, in printed media and on social media.

"We have no interest in engaging in an ongoing battle of words through the media. However, we have taken a decision to share our thoughts and the facts with the clubs of the county."

McAteer went on to detail media reports that followed in the wake of their Allianz League defeat away to Clare, with players leaving Eamonn Burns' senior panel.

The email names individual players such as Ryan Mallon and Gary McMahon and their reasons for leaving. However, it does not detail Damian Turley's reasons for leaving, which were well known at that stage.

McAteer confirms that some players did not return home from Ennis on the team bus - as revealed by the Belfast Telegraph - and states, "but that issue was dealt with and settled by team management at training on the Tuesday night after the game".

The email went on to discuss former county player Danny Hughes - an All-Star in 2010 as the Mourne county reached the All-Ireland final - who went on Newstalk's 'Off The Ball' radio show to discuss the issues in Down football as the senior team have not won a game in National League or Championship since early April, 2015.

Clearly frustrated by this turn of events, Hughes said on the night: "There are players who have turned down the opportunity to play for Down. And again, that is a reflection on our county board and things that are being done.

"There doesn't seem to be any professionalism and the people who have dragged us down into this mess since 1994... and we haven't responded. We haven't won an Ulster title."

He added: "The same people are making the decisions to try and pull us out of it. That's where I think our deepest problems lie. The same people are running the county for the last 20 years and it is not working. If this was any other business, people would have long been relieved of their duties."

One of the claims Hughes made was how potential candidates had been informed they were about to get underage management roles in the county, only for the promise to be reneged upon.

The Belfast Telegraph have since confirmed this with candidates who have verified this version of events.

The appointment of Burns was also a source of frustration to Hughes, who commented: "Eamonn was a great servant to Down, on the team that won two All-Irelands, and he is hugely respected. But Eamonn again has no background in managing teams…

"At the end of the day, Down should have been going for proven winners like Tony McEntee and Gareth O'Neil for example. And what did Down do? Down needed to grasp that and they never took it. The one thing they have to learn is that this board is so dysfunctional."

McAteer responded: "Our players, managers, county officers, the members of our various committees, the members of the county committee and all who give so much of their time to develop Gaelic Games in this county should not be subjected to the type of commentary engaged in by the contributors to this broadcast.

"As with GAA members across the county, so many of us spend time away from our families and have always been willing to take on the many thankless tasks to bring our county forward.

"It is too easy to criticise and demean, and so often those who engage in this are less willing to put their shoulder to the wheel," he added.

Such a method of fire-fighting and public relations is extremely rare in the GAA, with the furore over Down having died down some time ago.

They now take on Meath tomorrow night in Newry seeking their first win in almost two years.

Belfast Telegraph

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