Leitrim GAA County Board Chairman Enda Stenson Picture: Willie Donnellan
Leitrim GAA County Board Chairman Enda Stenson has defended the decision to concede last Saturday’s Allianz League Division 3 clash in Newry to Down and revealed that a slim majority of players had voted not to travel to Pairc Esler for the crunch League game.
In an interview with the Leitrim Observer at last Sunday’s Allianz NHL Division 3B Final in Bekan, Enda also revealed that one member of the Leitrim squad had tested positive for Covid-19 and that five other tests had returned negative results: “I know there is one of our players who has a positive test and that is a pity for him.”
However, the Leitrim chairman did admit his initial disappointment with the decision not to travel: “I have to say that initially I was hugely disappointed when we had all the arrangements made to travel. You have to question whether the whole thing is right or wrong but we had arrangements made to travel.
“Then, at 9 o’clock on Friday night, we were contacted by the management that there were only 14 players to travel. We always reflected that it was the players’ decision, whatever they wanted to do, we were going to row in behind that.”
The Leitrim chairman revealed that it was the players decision on whether or not to travel to Newry: “They had a formal vote and 52% of them didn’t want to go for one reason or another. I know they did their poll between eight and nine o’clock on FrIday night and the players voted not to go.
“Some of them couldn't go because of work, some of them did not want to go and at the end of the day, 52% of players wouldn’t go. We made the decision there and then. We had only 14 players and we weren’t going to try and make up a team, looking for players to go who weren’t going and that was basically that. In hindsight, I think it was the correct decision.”
With rising Covid-19 numbers in the north, Enda agreed that the fact that the game was across the border may have been a factor in their decision not to fulfill the game: “With some of the players, I would say that definitely going across the border was an issue, no doubt, travelling so far, going so far across the country.
“That won’t enter into the equation when we’re going to play Tipperary in Carrick but if there is anybody who is waiting for any tests, that issue will be the very same.”
Enda also said that he expects the players who had undergone tests to be available to face Tipperary: “I think it was six players who were waiting for test results. If they had a negative test, you are not ruled out for the full 14 days, absolutely not.”
The Leitrim chairman also revealed that some members of the team were unable to travel as they were told by their employers that they would have to quarantine for 14 days if they crossed the border: “There were some others told by their work that if they had played in Newry, they would have to stay away from work for two weeks. That’s awful to put young fellows under pressure to that extent but that happened and that was disappointing.”
With Tipperary manager David Power slamming Leitrim’s decision to concede the game, saying it called into question the integrity of the competition (see story here), Enda rejected suggestions that Leitrim had exploited the situation to avoid a heavy defeat in Down.
“That is totally incorrect, you don’t know what Down were going to be like but you had a good idea of what Down would be like, what they are normally like. I still think it is the same thing today as it was a week ago, we still have to beat Tipperary to avoid relegation. You might beat Tipperary and you might not avoid relegation but in the greater scheme of things, it is straight down to Tipperary and Leitrim.”
He also rejected comparisons with the situation in Galway and Fermanagh where both counties fulfilled fixtures over the weekend despite a heavy number of confirmed Covid cases in both counties: “You can never compare Leitrim and Galway, you certainly can compare Fermanagh with Leitrim. Fermanagh had two weeks to get their heads around this, we had two hours and that was the difference.
“We had no time, it had to be done at that time on Friday night, out of respect for Down. We had to contact Down on Friday night, we couldn’t have waited till Saturday morning to see how things were then and see if we could get other players. Fermanagh had the time to play around with it, think about it, get other players on board - we didn’t have that time.”
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