Rumblings of player discontent in Westmeath

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After 12 consecutive defeats in competitive matches this year, the Westmeath senior footballers are reportedly expressing reservations about the management team.

By Damien Maher

While nothing formal was discussed when the Westmeath senior footballers met last weekend for an end of season get-together, it’s understood there are concerns about how the season has panned out. The Westmeath County Committee remain firmly behind Paul Bealin, who was installed on a three-year term last September, but rumblings of discontent will be a concern ahead of the August meeting, where the matter is likely to be discussed.

“There has been nothing formal from the players and I know that they were very happy with the set-up and approach that was in place this year,” said County Committee Secretary, James Savage.

“No player has indicated to us that there is dissatisfaction with the management team. Privately they may discuss things; that goes on, but no contact has been made with us,” he added.

Mr Savage pointed out that the current management was appointed on a three-year term, subject to ratification every year by the clubs.

Meanwhile, the very public fall-out about players’ expenses last week has merely amplified the image of an unhappy camp. It followed a tweet from leading senior football star, John Heslin, who expressed his frustration and suggested that spending money on players is more important than planning for a new €3.5m stand at Cusack Park.

“The expenses were furnished on 2 June and it takes a month for everything to be processed. The cheques were dated last Monday and sent out through Gerry Coyne (Football Committee Secretary). I sign the cheques and I have to ensure everything is in order and that the money is there to meet them. It’s not a bottomless pit,” remarked James Savage.

NOT IN TROUBLE

“Our finances are not in trouble, but the flow of money in the early months of the year is slow. Money from our own championship games and grant money comes in once championships begin, but it costs €50,000 a month to fund county teams in both hurling and football. Both run for around eight months,” he explained.

Some counties pay players expenses on an annual basis, but Westmeath have a different arrangement in place to ensure players are not out of pocket. The secretary felt it was unfair to talk about the proposed new stand at Cusack Park in the same context as players’ expenses since the money for that project will come from capital funding. He insisted that Westmeath is very committed to player development.

“We have a partnership deal with Athlone I.T. which ensures all underage players are very well catered for. We are committed to this area,” he said.

And on the proposed Cusack Park stand, Mr Savage feels it’s time for Westmeath to put proper, modern facilities in place for patrons, who are actually contributing hugely to the cost of running the organisation.

“We can’t stand still on Cusack Park. Every club in the county is improving and we are keen to do the same. But it will be through a capital programme and will not affect players’ expenses, so it was unfair to refer to it in that context. We have to work on ways of securing that capital funding,” he said.

“Facilities at Cusack Park for disabled people, for example, need attention. There must be proper facilities for our spectators and we recognise that. The stand at present will hold about 2,400 and only 400 people have cover. That’s not good enough and we’d like it to provide cover for 3,000 paying supporters,” he added.

Mr Savage insisted that players in Westmeath are well catered for and pointed to the investment of approximately €60,000 in the new facility at Columb Barracks, Mullingar.

“Every hurler and footballer has access to those facilities once they go through Barry (Whelan) and Peter (Leahy), the physical trainers. Obviously we have to be conscious of security and all players need to do is make a call and they will have access to the facilities. It’s unfair to suggest otherwise,” he said.

The players have been unwilling to comment publicly on the situation, but it remains to be seen how it will pan out at the August meeting.