Secretary’s report describes the Treatment of Peter McDonnell as despicable

December 15, 2009

“The treatment dealt out to Peter McDonnell, a man of the utmost honesty and integrity, was absolutely despicable and should be publicly condemned as it has no place in our sport” are the words written by Armagh County Secretary Padraig Og Nuinseann as part of his annual report to Convention. Normally there is very little which can be digested or deemed interesting in an Annual Report but Padraig has gone out on a limb to single out the treatment of the former County team manager and the handling of the appointment of his successor as bringing “Armagh down to the gutter”.

While the annual report goes through the main talking points of 2009 such as:

•County Minor football success, UMFL, UMFC and All-Ireland

•Appointment of new Senior football manager – Paddy O’Rourke

•County U21 football team reach Ulster Final

•125 All County parade

•First ever competitive match is played under floodlights in the Athletic Grounds

•Introduction of major new initiative for the development of Hurling within the County

•Review of Underage structures

it is the following excerpt from a very detailed and excellent report that is sure to provide the main talking point and may make for some very interesting questions and answers at County Convention.

“Whilst defeat and an early exit from the championship were difficult to contend with the fall-out that was to follow surpassed any disappointment of losing.

Peter McDonnell on meeting with the County Management Team support group announced that he was resigning from his position as senior team manager. While this may not have been totally unexpected the reasons he gave for doing so certainly were.

He stated that he had been put in an impossible situation by a number of so called influential people outside of the team and County Board who had continually tried to undermine his authority and what he was attempting to do with the senior squad. This, he said, came to its lowest ebb when he became aware 2 days prior to the qualifier game with Monaghan that the changes to the team he had announced earlier in the week and the tactics he was intending to adopt for the match were given directly to a member of the Monaghan management team.

It will probably be said that this should have remained “in house” and no good comes of washing our dirty linen in public. This may be so but I will face the consequences of my actions because I firmly believe that the treatment dealt out to Peter McDonnell, a man of the utmost honesty and integrity, was absolutely despicable and should be publicly condemned as it has no place in our sport.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Peter and his entire backroom team for the effort and commitment that they gave to Armagh football over their two years at the helm and in conclusion I wish to offer my sincerest apologies for the despicable treatment you had to endure from these so called “critics”.

However, believe me, if that hadn’t brought Armagh down to the gutter what was to follow when we set about the appointment of a new manager most certainly did, and I make no apology for using the word “gutter”.

The Management Committee of the County Board decided to open up the process by proposing a five man selection committee which would consist of the County Chairman and Secretary, a former player, a Club delegate and an independent chairman from outside the County, so far, so good. The Clubs were asked to nominate suitable candidates with the provision that nominations had to be signed by the candidate.

The media of course appointed themselves as in independent selection committee instructing us as to who was best suited for the job and it was no real surprise when Paul Grimley topped their list. Whilst it was obvious that Paul’s name was going to be heavily associated with the post the County Board had agreed a process that had to be followed.

Unfortunately, though the five man committee of Eugene Young, Kevin Brady, Gerard Davidson, Paul McGrane and myself didn’t really get a clean run at the process as other “players” with no directive from anyone decided to become involved and the whole system turned chaotic with members of the selection committee accusing each other of having hidden agendas.

Inevitably the whole process collapsed and Paul Grimley, who had been in talks with Monaghan for a number of weeks, decided to take up the role that they had offered him, which was perfectly permitted and correct to do so if he believed that this was the best move for him.

However, this did nothing to help the Armagh management position so after further discussions with players and clubs a second committee was formed and this time given the authority to approach individuals who they believed would be best suited to the role.

The committee of K. Brady, E. Hughes, P. Duggan, P. Kelly and P. McGrane set about their task as a matter of urgency and within a matter of days returned with a proposal to the County Management Committee of Paddy O’ Rourke.

To say that this caused a few ripples would be the understatement of the decade, but the furore soon died down when he addressed the Clubs for the first time as Paddy clearly showed the passion and belief he has for the current set-up in Armagh.

Since his appointment Paddy has managed to put together a backroom team that would do any county proud. Team Trainer, Mike McGurn, world renowned fitness coach and joint selectors Donal Murtagh, whose record with Crossmaglen speaks for itself, and Justin McNulty, a vital member of the 2002 All-Ireland winning team.

So let’s put all the negativity of 2009 behind us and get back to what we all strive for, success for Armagh and get fully behind this exciting new management team.”

The frank admissions from the Secretary in his report are most welcome in that they remove the veil of secrecy often associated with County Boards in time of crisis. Boards non committal stances often only enflames the speculation and leads people to believe and follow only one line of clarity. We all know that there are always two sides to every story, but if you continually only hear one, it is natural instinct to distrust the non committal party and deem them as the guilty one.

By his own admission in the report the County Secretary acknowledges that he may be opening a can of worms but is prepared to accept and face the consequences. On the other hand he may have to accept the plaudits for throwing the thing into the public domain to highlight the injustices that have occured.