Loughnane on the warpath
Clare hurling manager Ger Loughnane has launched an extraordinary attack on the Munster Council. Speaking on Clare FM radio yesterday morning, Loughnane accused the council of improper conduct, acting ultra vires and hypocrisy. He also questioned the continuation in office of council secretary Donie Nealon and PRO Fr Seamus Gardiner.
In a separate part of the interview, he criticised the media for unbalanced reporting of the controversial Munster final against Waterford and Gerald McCarthy, manager of Waterford, for alleged behaviour during the match in Thurles.
The most strident criticism, however, concerned tomorrow night's meeting of the Munster Council to consider video evidence against Clare centre-fielder Colin Lynch, who is attending a hearing to answer charges arising from incidents in the Munster replay on July 19th. Clare face Offaly in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final.
Loughnane claimed that a decision has already been taken to suspend the player for three months. He based his claim on a conversation overheard by Clare county chairman Robert Frost (who also spoke on the programme, confirming the account) in the Ard Comhairle box at Croke Park during the All-Ireland quarter-finals on July 26th.
The conversation between three priests was initially critical of Clare and Loughnane: ". . . on the lines that the Clare team were tinkers, Loughnane was a tramp and the Clare team must be on drugs. This was the general tenor of their conversation," according to Loughnane, who continued:
"One of the priests then pointed out, he said: `Don't worry. The PRO - who I will not name - of the Munster Council has told me that he had been talking to the secretary of the Munster Council - who I will not name - and that the Munster Council was going to get Loughnane up into the stand the next day and that Colin Lynch would be suspended for three months. Now remember that this event took place three days before the Munster Council met to discuss the referee's report."
Loughnane went on to point out that had such prejudicial comments issued from a judge before a court case, that judge would be disbarred. He then wondered why the relevant officers, secretary Donie Nealon (who was alleged to have made similar statements about the Lynch case to Galway county chairman Frank Burke) and PRO Fr Seamus Gardiner, shouldn't be subject to the same penalty.
Neither official was available for comment, but Munster Council chairman Sean Kelly strenuously denied the allegation.
"It is very difficult to comment when Colin Lynch's case is coming up on Friday night, but it is not decided in advance. The board acted on video evidence and while people can speculate all they like, nothing has been decided in advance of the meeting.
"Until the meeting has taken place and Colin Lynch has had his chance to make his case, I wouldn't say anything about the matter. But Clare has three representatives on the council and no other county has three, so I don't accept that anything untoward could happen. The Munster Council has a reputation for fairness in all its dealings and I want that maintained during my term."
Loughnane also queried whether the Munster Council had the power to ban him from the touchline and confine him to the stand in Croke Park this coming Sunday, given that the match comes under the jurisdiction of the GAC.
Accepting that he was guilty of encroachment, Loughnane argued that the ban should be imposed during next year's Munster championship. Kelly, however, disagrees and points out that this weekend's ban is in effect a pre-imposed suspended sentence.
"The original ban was given after last year's All-Ireland final and would have taken effect at the start of this year's championship. An amnesty was issued subject to Ger Loughnane's guaranteeing that he would comply with regulations. He gave a written undertaking to Croke Park which has not been honoured and the ban has been re-imposed."
Kelly also responded to Loughnane's allegations of inconsistency against the council for failing to act against other rule breaches, specifically Limerick manager Eamonn Cregan's encroachment on the pitch during the first round match with Cork and Limerick goalkeeper Joe Quaid's kick on an opponent which was plainly seen on television.
"It's not true that we took no action. Limerick were fined for encroachments on the field of play. In Joe Quaid's case no one at council requested an investigation of video evidence - I suppose Limerick had been beaten and were out of the championship."
Loughnane also maintained that he was the target of a vendetta on the part of an unnamed official who was "leading a witch-hunt against me".