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Adam Moynihan: FAI’s silence over alleged COVID breach is worrying

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FAI Chief Executive Jonathan Hill at the Irish women's recent match against Denmark. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile.

CHAIRMAN: FAI Chairman Roy Barrett. Senior FAI officials did not reply to requests for information on the investigation into Kerry football. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile.

MOUNTHAWK: In September, the FAI launched an investigation into reports of a breach of COVID-19 restrictions at a match at Mounthawk Park in Tralee. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

Mounthawk Park in Tralee, the venue of last year's league final between Killarney Celtic and Killarney Athletic. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

In September of last year, the FAI launched an investigation into allegations of a serious breach of COVID-19 restrictions at a soccer match in Kerry.

The complaint centred around a league final between Killarney Celtic and Killarney Athletic, a fixture that was supposed to be played behind closed doors in line with COVID guidelines at the time. It had been claimed that upwards of 180 people attended the game in Tralee, and that an admission fee was charged at the gate. As far as supposed breaches go, this was a big one.

Did you hear what came of that investigation? Me either. There was no public statement, no fallout, no news whatsoever. Apart from the initial coverage when the investigation was confirmed, it’s like the whole thing never happened.

At this point you might well say, “Hang on, isn’t that your job?” That is a very fair observation to make. Here’s why I haven’t written about the topic in six months.

SILENCE

FAI Communications Director Cathal Dervan gave me a comment for a piece I wrote on September 15, two days after the story broke via Paul Rowan and Mark Tighe in the Sunday Times. But subsequent requests for information fell on deaf ears. I asked for an update on the investigation in October and again in November but heard nothing back. It was a major story - especially here in Kerry - but without an official line, there really wasn’t much I could do with it.

Naturally, as the weeks turned into months, I assumed that no action had been taken against the Kerry District League or its secretary, John O’Regan. If it had then one would imagine that it would have come out. But beyond that I was completely in the dark.

At the beginning of April, with the Dublin footballers’ high-profile COVID breach making front page news, I decided to try the FAI one more time. After all (on paper at least) the alleged breach in Tralee was potentially more serious as it involved far more people. The matter may have been resolved behind closed doors but as far as I (and this publication) was concerned, it was still very much unresolved.

My question was straightforward and, I think, fairly reasonable: what came of the investigation?

Again, I received no response. Attempts to get a comment from the CEO, Jonathan Hill (pictured above), and the chairman, Roy Barrett, also proved fruitless this past week. The latter left me on read. They are busy men, I have no doubt about that, but to contact the FAI five times over a six-month period and still get no reply is disheartening to say the least.

 

[caption id="attachment_37257" align="aligncenter" width="852"] FAI Chairman Roy Barrett. Senior FAI officials did not reply to requests for information on the investigation into Kerry football. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile.[/caption]

 

As I was reaching out to these two senior officials, I also decided to talk to James McCarthy, the referee’s assessor who brought the alleged breach to the attention of the FAI in the first place. Speaking with McCarthy allowed me to fill in one or two of the blanks.

TIGHE AND ROWAN

McCarthy explained how he submitted a complaint on September 9, three days after the match, but it took further emails and follow-ups with various officials before the FAI responded. The Association launched an investigation and this was noted by Rowan and Tighe in the Sunday Times on September 13.

I interviewed John O’Regan for this paper and, in a story published online on September 15, he asserted that “no guidelines were broken” by the Kerry District League. When I put it to him that there were people there who shouldn’t have been (readers may recall that I was playing in the match in question), he accepted that, but he also claimed that some spectators may have snuck in using alternative entry points.

“There was a few there alright but I can’t do anything about what’s passing up and down. We don’t have the luxury of having everything walled in like Fitzgerald Stadium or Austin Stack Park. They can come in through Tralee Dynamos’ pitch – now, I don’t know whether they did or not [for this match] – and, unfortunately, on the left-hand-side there’s a walkway and people can come from the middle of Tralee or Caherslee.

“Maybe a few people got in that way. There are a few gaps all over the place.”

 

[caption id="attachment_37259" align="aligncenter" width="804"] Mounthawk Park in Tralee, the venue of last year's league final between Killarney Celtic and Killarney Athletic. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.[/caption]

 

He also refuted the allegation that he had charged an admission fee, saying that the money taken from those who did come in via the main gate was for charity.

“We weren’t allowed to charge but we were collecting for the Red Cross. And what we were asking people to do was to make a donation. Anybody who wanted to donate to the Red Cross was allowed to do so. And people did donate generously.

“Next Thursday night we’ll be presenting the Red Cross with a cheque for €1,000 that we collected at the game. But there was no charge as such.”

This understandably led some observers to question how €1,000 was collected at the front gate if an appreciable number of spectators had hopped the wall, so to speak.

O’Regan also claimed at the time that there is a “personal vendetta” against him, which he said stems from his ongoing friendship with disgraced former FAI chief John Delaney.

On November 25, McCarthy received an official document via email from the FAI. “We refer to your complaint in respect of the Kerry District League. Please note that the Independent FAI Disciplinary Committee have dealt with the matter.”

The document, which was signed by the ‘Disciplinary Control Unit’, was vague, but the implication was that nothing had come of the investigation.

For his part, McCarthy is still unhappy with the outcome. He wants to know who was on the committee that carried out the investigation, and he feels as though the KDL and its secretary should have been punished. “I wouldn’t give a damn if they only slapped them across the hand or fined the league €100. But [the FAI] should have definitely taken some action.”

The Limerick man believes that the incident has been brushed under the carpet. Asked to sum up the saga - including the FAI’s handling of the investigation - from his perspective, McCarthy calls it “a disgrace”.

CLOSED

It’s not my intention to cause trouble for the league or for John O’Regan by revisiting this episode at this juncture. McCarthy made his complaint, O’Regan stated his case (in these pages and presumably to the FAI) and the FAI reached its judgement. In that sense, the matter is closed.

My biggest concern now is that I’m seeing a lack of transparency and accountability, which is precisely what brought the ‘Old FAI’ to its knees. And this isn’t ancient history we’re talking about. This was two years ago. Lessons were supposed to have been learned.

Is it not fair for the media, or any stakeholders for that matter, to ask questions about an incident such as this? Simple queries like how long did the investigation take? Who was involved? What were the findings?

More to the point, are questions like these going to be answered in the future?

What worries me is that, in this instance at least, the ‘New FAI’ looks an awful lot like the old one.

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Séamus Moynihan tops Kerry manager poll ahead of Jack O’Connor and Peter Keane

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by Adam Moynihan

Although it now appears as though he could be a selector on the Stephen Stack ticket, four-time All-Ireland winner Séamus Moynihan has topped our ‘Next Kerry Manager’ poll by collecting over one-third of the overall vote.

Around 37% of respondents said that Moynihan should be the next Kerry boss with 23% of fans backing former manager Jack O’Connor. The team’s most recent bainisteoir, Peter Keane, received 18% of the votes.

Another former manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, is next in line on 10%, although it is believed that he is not willing to return to the fold due to work commitments.

In addition to the four main candidates mentioned above, readers were also invited to nominate their own preferred candidate. This open field threw up 16 more names with former Kerry and Dr Crokes manager Pat O’Shea the most popular entry. The Killarney man received around 3.5% of the vote.

Donie Buckley got roughly half as many votes as O’Shea, and the other prospective managers ended up with less than 1% each.

MOYNIHAN/STACK

Glenflesk native Moynihan enjoyed a glittering playing career for The Kingdom between 1992 and 2006, the highlight perhaps coming in the year 2000 when he captained his county to All-Ireland glory. He has since taken on coaching roles with his own club and with Fossa and was part of Darragh Ó Sé’s Kerry U21 management team in 2015.

It had been suggested that Monaghan’s defensive coach Donie Buckley would be part of the Moynihan ticket. Buckley was also a member of Peter Keane’s backroom team, but Keane relieved him of his duties in the early stages of the 2020 season.

However, after this survey was completed, Tony Leen of the Irish Examiner reported that Moynihan and Buckley are, indeed, part of the same ticket, but the manager’s name attached is that of current Killarney Legion boss Stephen Stack.

Stack himself had a long and distinguished playing career with The Kingdom and as a manager led Austin Stacks to the County Championship in 2014 and Legion to an East Kerry Championship in 2019.

The Listowel native is also rumoured to be calling on Dara Ó Cinnéide and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as selectors, with Joe O’Connor filling the role of strength and conditioning coach.

Stack was not considered to be a realistic candidate at the time of the survey; he was one of the 14 managers who received less than 1% of the vote.

KERRY SUPPORTERS SURVEY

Q: Who should be the next manager of the Kerry senior football team?

Séamus Moynihan 36.7%

Jack O’Connor  23.4%

Peter Keane 18.1%

Eamonn Fitzmaurice 10%

Pat O’Shea 3.5%

Donie Buckley 1.6%

Others* 6.7%

(Carried out online on September 21/22. 431 respondents.)

*Mike Quirke, John Sugrue, Jim McGuinness, Jim Gavin, Jerry O’Sullivan, Maurice Fitzgerald, Tomás Ó Sé, Johnny Crowley, Stephen Stack, Kieran Donaghy, John Evans, Paul Galvin, Marc Ó Sé, Liam Kearns.

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Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s

By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]

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0209636_0207859234574657101600092629627809064701807682307612n.jpg

By Sean Moriarty

Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.

Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.

The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.

Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.

His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.

“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.

INTERNATIONALS

Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.

The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.

“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.

The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.

The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.

“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.

The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.

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