Sligo hope Walsh will remain in charge of footballers

Despite historic defeat county secretary believes no purpose would be served by intervening in football management

Sligo manager Kevin Walsh

Sligo manager Kevin Walsh

 

There will be no intervention in team management from the Sligo County Board after the weekend’s historic defeat by London in Ruislip, according to county secretary Gerry O’Connor.

Speaking to this newspaper O’Connor said he was hopeful manager Kevin Walsh would take the team through the All-Ireland qualifiers campaign, which begins next month.

“Absolutely. I have no sense from anyone I’ve spoken to that they want a head and there would be no sense in it either. These things happen. We lost to Leitrim two years ago and stuck with Kevin and went on the beat Galway the next year. If getting rid of Kevin Walsh and the county board would solve all of Sligo’s problems I’d do it in the morning. There’ll be no dramatic changes. He deserves that much.”

Sligo became the first county since Leitrim 36 years ago to lose to London in the Connacht championship. A late chance for Sligo’s Pat Hughes came back off the crossbar bar and they lost by a point, 0-14 to 1-12.

On The Sunday Game, former Sligo player Eamonn O’Hara, now a pundit on the RTÉ programme, was withering in his criticism of the Galway All-Ireland winner.

“Kevin Walsh made big calls this year and last year, but now every one of them has come back to backfire against him and for me I think he lost the players throughout the league. Kevin Walsh has a lot to answer for.

“To be honest with you, I think he will (resign) and I think he should do the county board a favour. These players deserve an awful lot more to be honest with you.

“They work very hard and they have trained extremely hard – I know that first hand – but they deserve better training sessions, they deserve better quality in terms of their tactical awareness and stuff like that, and that hasn’t come.”

Left off panel
Responding to these comments on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland former Armagh All-Ireland winner Oisín McConville said he felt O’Hara had an axe to grind having been left off the panel by Walsh.

“Eamonn O’Hara announced his retirement,” said O’Connor when asked about the controversy, “and got all the plaudits he deserved for his contribution to Sligo football. Kevin Walsh had demanded commitment for the league and Eamonn couldn’t give it. Whatever decision Kevin made he does his own thing. He looks after football and the county board looks after administration.”

O’Hara was also critical of the county board whose in-fighting he alleged had meant insufficient attention had been paid to the fortunes of the football team over the past two years.

O’Connor said he feared the defeat in London would contribute to a downbeat mood in the county and make raising funds for the completion of phase one of the county’s Centre of Excellence even more difficult.

The failure to complete this project on schedule had been another of O’Hara’s criticisms.

“It’s a big setback and you can’t look at it any other way. The negative comments on social media alone would suggest that,” said O’Connor.

Walsh was unavailable for comment on the issue of whether he would remain in charge for the qualifiers.

In the controversy the scale of London’s achievement has been more than a little overshadowed but Paul Coggins, a Roscommon native, has accomplished a feat that hasn’t been done since 1977.

Competitive first half
That year the reward for defeating Leitrim was a Connacht semi-final against Galway in Ballinasloe.

They lost 5-13 to 1-9 but put in a very competitive first half before the hosts kicked on in the second half. Top scorer for Galway with 2-3 was future Galway and Roscommon manager John Tobin.

In recent times however, London have been more competitive and took that year’s eventual Connacht champions Mayo to extra time in 2011 and went on to achieve a famous victory over Fermanagh in the qualifiers before going out to Waterford.

This year they have been competitive in Division Four despite being unfortunate with the final score-lines in matches and have benefited from consistency of selection with a stable panel.

They travel to Carrick-on-Shannon to take on Leitrim. The counties’ league encounter last month ended in a narrow win for Leitrim, 1-11 to 1-9.