TYRONE hurling captain Chris Kearns says he would seriously consider whether it’s all worth it if Mattie Lennon isn’t reinstalled as their senior inter-county manager – but their star forward Damian Casey is concerned that the ship has already sailed and that the damage is done.
Gaelic Life has spoken to two of Tyrone’s leading hurlers about the considerable delay in appointing a new manager, which has caused real ill-feeling among the hurling fraternity in the county.
Covid-19 was cited by Tyrone County Board chairperson Mickey Kerr as a reason for the hold up after Casey tweeted last Friday that the County Board “don’t give a ****” about hurling – an explanation that isn’t cutting any ice with either Kearns or Casey.
Following Tyrone’s Nickey Rackard Cup semi-final loss to Donegal in mid-November, Lennon finished up after three years in charge.
It’s understood that Lennon was willing to put his name forward again, but contact hasn’t been forthcoming even though the National League is scheduled to commence at the end of February.
Casey said: “I’d say things are too far gone now at this stage. To be honest I’ve more time for Mattie as an Armagh man than some of the people in the county board. He’s done more for Tyrone hurling than others in there would do in two life-times.
“If we’re bringing in a new man, we’ll be on the back-foot right away. A manager will have to be appointed, a backroom team will have to be assembled, and they’ll need to speak to players to see if they’ll make themselves available. There’s countless stuff that needs to be sorted.
“The way I see it, it shows that they don’t really care. Maybe someone can come forward and tell me different, but if they cared, there’d be something in place.”
Tyrone skipper Kearns, meanwhile, says that all he’s asking is that the hurlers are treated with some degree of parity. He can cite countless examples evidencing an endemic lack of respect culminating in the present fiasco.
“This has been threatening for the three years since I’ve been involved. In the first year, we couldn’t get a grass pitch – they were trying to put us on the 3G pitch, you can’t hurl on a 3G pitch and it’s not fair. You could think you’re flying but you go out onto a normal pitch and realise it’s completely different.
“It’s sad it comes to talking to the media about it, but there just doesn’t seem to be any other option. People say it’s a football county but we’re not asking for a pile, we’re not asking to be treated the exact same as the footballers.
He continued: “Since I’ve become captain, there’s always been issues. Mattie would ring and it wouldn’t be to ask how training’s going, it would nearly always be about something going on behind the scenes.
“We’re always chasing expenses and gear and things like that. One time Mattie had booked the gym in Garvaghey and we turned up and the u-20s were using it. We’d DJ Carey up a few seasons ago, he took us for a training session and there was nobody there from the county board to meet him. It’s just been endless really.”
While he takes no pleasure in saying it, Kearns also says he would consider leaving the panel if Lennon isn’t reappointed to the role.
“I don’t know if this sounds like sour grapes, but if Mattie Lennon’s not there I’d have to seriously consider my place. I don’t think any other manager could do the job he’s done. I think he’s just the right man for the job and that’s the end of it.
“I think it’s shown a total lack of respect for Mattie and what he’s done for Tyrone. He goes above and beyond for Tyrone, sometimes out of his own pocket. The man’s fed up with things and you can’t blame him.”
Casey led the Tyrone hurlers through a relative golden period for the county in 2014 and 2015, the highlight being their Nickey Rackard Cup triumph in 2014. While he’s a fan of Eunan Lindsay, who recently returned to the county board as hurling officer, and liaison officer Aidan Maguire, he believes a general malaise has set in since Ciaran McLaughlin’s five-year term as chairperson ended in November 2014.
“Since Ciaran left, it’s certainly dropped around three or four levels regards support from the county board. I think it’s gone beyond a joke. It’s small things that could be easily sorted – a basic structure needs to be in place and the right men involved.
“We’re not looking absolutely everything, we’re just looking a bit of backing from the county board. We got it in 2014 and it’s no surprise that we won Division 3B in 2014, the Nickey Rackard in 2014 and Division 3A in 2015.
“You didn’t have any of this crap going on behind the scenes – you trained, you enjoyed it and there was a good management team in place, and the results spoke for themselves.”