Kilcoo plan appeal after being thrown out of the final
Down champions Kilcoo have reacted angrily to being thrown out of the County League final, and having an under-21 Championship game fixed for this Sunday, a mere two-and-a-half hours before the senior team face Maghery in the Ulster club semi-final.
The county board meeting on Tuesday night effectively awarded Castlewellan the league title, after Kilcoo would not field in the original fixture, which was arranged immediately after Kilcoo defeated Glenswilly in the Ulster quarter-final, giving them only a few days to prepare for a Thursday night slot.
They withdrew from that on the grounds of player welfare, with a number of players recovering from the punishing encounter against the Donegal champions.
Michael Kane, Kilcoo's public relations officer, told The Belfast Telegraph that the club had offered to play the league final this coming Tuesday night, no matter the outcome of the Ulster club semi-final, but this was rejected.
The Eoghan Ruadh club will now take an appeal to the Ulster Council.
Their frustrations are compounded after Monday night's fixture meeting drew Kilcoo to play the under-21 Championship quarter-final against Carryduff this Sunday at noon.
As Kane explained, "Obviously our club secretary and the fixtures secretary have been liaising with the county board to try and get them changed. But as we stand at this minute, no developments have come of it.
"And we are expected to go out on Sunday and play an under-21 game, two-and-a-half hours before the Ulster club semi-final."
He continued, "We have asked the question, raised the question of the rationale around it, first of all, and why this was fixed for Sunday, knowing well that we are going to Pairc Esler for an Ulster club semi-final.
"We have eight under-21 players on our panel. Logistically, it would not be possible. By the time you get changed it would be quarter to two, and asked to line out against at half-two?"
While this has the potential to upset team morale, Kane insists that senior manager Paul McIver and his players have their full focus tuned into the Ulster club campaign.
"The players and management have totally blanked this league thing out. Their full focus is on Maghery and they have put this to the back of their minds," he said.
Kane feels there is a strong agenda against Kilcoo.
"Speaking on behalf of the club, we are very disappointed with the way we have been treated by the county board in these two incidents," he emphasised.
"You would nearly think there was a campaign against us to make it as difficult as possible, when you expect support from your county board."
He pointed to examples where the Down county board actively helped clubs and individual players, stating, "In years previous to that, whenever the Burrens and Mayobridges of this world were competing for Ulster clubs, they got full support and they were not asked to fulfil their fixtures.
"Us in particular, we waited 11 weeks in 2011, waiting to play a play-off against Burren, until their Ulster campaign was over and Kevin McKernan was home from Australia, where he was playing International Rules."
He added, "We reckon we are not getting the support we deserve from our county board and they might say they are.
"But it's the actions. Look at them and you would ask yourself 'is there something against us? To make things difficult for us?'
"We provide the county with players. We do everything for them, we give them our pitch, we are good subscribers to the county draw. All we ask is for a wee bit in return.
"Mayobridge and Burren got full support during their Ulster campaigns and we don't think we are getting that from them. That's the bottom line."