Mayo ladies board hopeful of ‘amicable solution’ to dispute

Mediation talks underway involving the disgruntled players and team management

Peter Leahy addresses the Mayo team in Clones for the game against Cavan. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The Mayo ladies county board remain hopeful of an "amicable resolution" to the dispute between 12 players, including Cora Staunton, and Peter Leahy's management.

Representatives of the players, who walked off the panel citing "player welfare issues that are personal and sensitive" met under mediation with the board on Wednesday night. Eight players hail from All-Ireland champions Carnacon, Staunton's club, with four others, including team captain Sarah Tierney, supporting the 11 -time All Star.

An issue appears to have developed between Leahy, a Westmeath native who became Mayo manager this season, and Staunton, who had been playing in the women’s Australian Football League and therefore opted out of her first league campaign in 23 years.

On Tuesday, July 10th the Women's Gaelic Players Association entered the dispute: "We are aware of the issues at hand and are supporting all of the players. We recognise the physical and emotional commitment required to operate at the top level of our games and respect the decision of all individual players regarding their own personal playing experience."


Nobody from the players, management or Mayo board are willing to reveal what the “issues” are.

The absent players did release a statement ahead of last weekend’s victory over Cavan in Clones: “We have stepped away from the Mayo panel for player welfare issues that are personal and sensitive to the players involved.”

It’s believed the possible inference of this statement upset the Mayo management.

On Thursday, July 12th the executive board of Mayo ladies GAA fully supported Leahy’s management by noting they are “acutely aware of the critical importance of player welfare. Player wellbeing is fundamental to all coaching and management structures. A comprehensive programme is in place to ensure that all Mayo players can train and perform in a safe and supportive environment and all necessary resources have been made available to enable the Mayo senior ladies compete with the very best in the country.

“In the light of media speculation about unspecified ‘personal and sensitive’ issues, the board feels it important to state that the senior management team has adhered to all protocols and guidelines set out at the beginning of their tenure.

“The board has made players and management aware that they have our full support going forward and we will continue to work with all parties to find an amicable resolution.”

Player welfare

Then, last Saturday evening, after the 3-23 to 4-13 victory over Cavan, Leahy released his own statement which doubled as a timeline of events up to that point.

“Firstly, I will not be discussing anything about any of the girls who have left the panel as there is a process in place and agreement in place, which I want to adhere to, in order to get the best possible outcome for Mayo Ladies.

“However, I do want to address the statement and the implications of the statement made on behalf of some of the girls who have left the panel. It’s correct that 12 girls who were on the panel have left, but it is incorrect to state that they have all left for the same apparent reasons.

“On Thursday July 5th, roughly one hour before our training session . . . and 10 days from our All-Ireland series championship match, I received a call from a particular club secretary. I was informed by the said person that all eight members of that club were withdrawing from the panel on the grounds of player welfare.

“I immediately informed the county board chairperson, who in turn set the appropriate process in place. I then informed the remaining members of the panel of this club’s decision and we went on to have a full session with the remaining panel that night. Over the next five days, four more members of the panel removed themselves from the county panel.

“As manager, I want to clearly state that at no stage has any player been asked to leave the panel and I respect every player’s right to choose to be involved at county level or to leave the panel.”

Last Monday Sarah Rowe, the 22-year-old forward who scored 1-7 against Cavan, voiced her support of Leahy's management.

“For all of us playing we are very, very happy with the management. Very supportive, approachable, tough, tough, tough on us, of course, but that’s their job,” said Rowe. “Their job is to coach, they always give constructive criticism to us all, and it has only made us stronger and better players. I’m fully behind management, I think they’re a brilliant set-up. Unbelievable.”

Staunton, who turns 37 in December, is due to return to Sydney in November for a second season as a professionally contracted Aussie Rules player.