Private issues played out in public always have the propensity to get ugly. The Mayo saga is hopefully at an end but the stink won’t clear for months. There are no winners here either, just losers. The manager, the players, Mayo LGFA, none of the stakeholders comes out of this situation with their reputations enhanced.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the row is how assured people were of who was in the wrong when they took sides, there was no room for compromise or mediation and it doesn’t appear that an amicable solution in which all parties might have admitted some degree of fault, to be an option considered by the county board in Mayo, or the players who felt wronged by the management.
Social media spectators rushed to condemn the county board for callously booting Carnacon from competition, their expulsion from Championship and League was eventually overturned. Similarly there was a large section of the peanut gallery who felt the players were wrong, they were caricatured as hysterical women unable to cope with not getting their own way.
This does a great disservice to players who have freely given their dedication, time and effort in an attempt to bring success to their county, they were standing up for themselves and do not deserve to have their complaints dismissed. This is not a case of easily offended players throwing toys from the pram because the manager was mean to them. John Cleese’s definition of the derogatory term ‘snowflake’ came to mind when reading countless commentator's quickly dismiss the player’s gripes. Explaining the term, he said: “I think sociopaths use it in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy.”
In a situation as complex as this involving emotions, injustices and pride, there is no black and white. While neither side appear able to accept it, both are in the wrong to some degree. This has escalated to a point that is beyond ridiculous. Peter Leahy’s style of management is by modern inter county standards - antiquated; anyone who has played sport will have no time for the authoritarian style detailed by the players in their media conference.
Treating adults like kids and subjecting them to the ‘my way or the highway’ style of management is senseless, but questioning those methods can do more harm than good. Sarah Tierney is an experienced player, she handled herself with class and dignity throughout this difficult episode. But why did she set herself on a collision course by trying to reason with the unreasonable?
She detailed an argument at training with Leahy: “My first night back, the majority of the training was all running. I just said a passing comment to him, being like, ‘Jesus Peter, is it going to be all running tonight or will there be any football?’
“I didn’t mean anything malicious by it, it’s not my character. The following night I received a phone call from Peter about the comment I made and he basically attacked me on the phone.
“He basically said he didn’t give an f how many All-Stars I had or what name I had made for myself in football. That he was the manager and what he said goes this year.”
One source close to the Mayo situation claimed players were unhappy with feedback given in team meetings, a one player felt unhappy with having her performance analysed negatively in front of the group, others were uncomfortable with one on one performance review sessions with Leahy. The players who chose to walk away kept the exact reasons for doing so private, the welfare concerns were apparently 'too personal' to share. What was shared publicly was the assertion that the environment was unsafe and unhealthy and that is among the most serious and worrying concerns a player could raise. Particularly in the absence of details those words conjure up suspicions of something extremely sinister.
Cora Stauntion chose those words very carefully when she spoke on OTB AM, they were uttered in a tone of voice that conveyed the seriousness of such claims. Those remarks though have not stood up to scrutiny. They have not been substantiated in any meaningful way. No anecdote has emerged over the course of this row which would justify the language used in describing the environment of that panel.
The fact that a fallout can descend to this is remarkable, every week a group of players will have enough of their manager, that’s a natural part of sport. The fact this row was allowed to fester and become so insidiously destructive is mind boggling. A club should never have punished for the actions of individuals, statement and counter statement issued to the media instead of acting like adults and trying to settle their differences. It should never have got to that point.