CLARE hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald has banned a journalist from any of his future press briefings.
A letter was sent to the Clare Champion last week, telling them that the All-Ireland-winning manager will not give interviews to their journalist Peter O’Connell, nor will he address press conferences if O’Connell is present.
Fitzgerald and O’Connell were involved in an altercation following the draw between Clare and Wexford at Cusack Park on Saturday 5 July.
“It was quite a mundane start to the whole episode.” O’Connell told RTÉ’s Second Captains Championship show following the incident.
“I was down around the tunnel area looking for a colleague just to make sure we hadn’t interviewed the same people when, in the distance initially, I heard this fairly loud shouting and roaring and for a couple of seconds didn’t realise it was directed at myself.
“Then I looked up and there was Davy Fitzgerald approaching in a fairly heated manner.
“Now, he was being held back by somebody – I don’t know who it was because it just all happened so fast – and he was looking quite agitated to put it mildly and pointing and gesticulating and stuff and he had quite a bit to say, much of which I can’t repeat.
“One of the comments he made which I thought was rather extraordinary was that I was allegedly destroying Clare hurling, which I thought was quite a feat for one person.
“I presume it’s linked to stuff I’ve written for the Clare Champion but, ironically, I cover mostly football and news for the paper.
“I’ve written one hurling article this year and that was in the aftermath of the Cork game and I presume it’s linked to that.
“For the first few seconds I was completely stunned. I wouldn’t be often speechless but I was there for a few seconds. Eventually, I said to to Davy – I didn’t get irate or anything – but I did say that he was wrong in what he was saying.
“He was being pulled further back – the closest he got was five or six yards – and then I decided I was going to approach him in a peaceful manner and have it out with him verbally and ask what was the issue.
“When I went forward a few yards this figure in a big purple jumper appeared which happened to be the county secretary – [Davy’s] father Pat Fitzgerald – and he indicated I should leave the area.”
Fitzgerald gave his side of the story to O’Connell’s newspaper, the Clare Champion.
“Despite what Mr O’Connell may contend, this is not about one article, as he has publicly stated,” Fitzgerald said. “It is about three years of continuous criticism of myself and my management team. I accept that every management team is open to criticism but, in the interests of natural justice, surely his opinion pieces have to be balanced and fair.
“Based on our achievements as a management team, I feel it is fair to state our record should speak for itself. But we feel Mr O’Connell appears to have an agenda. Why are we subjected to such minute scrutiny when he doesn’t apply the same criteria to the minor, senior, intermediate and his own U21 management set-ups in the other code? It is fair to point out from the above comments that his criticism is not balanced, considering our results.
“I have contacted his editor on numerous occasions with a view to creating more equitable and fair-minded content in his articles. On seeing him last Saturday, I decided I was going to address the issues face-to-face. In my opinion, he did not handle my comments to him in a very good manner, which can be seen by his actions afterwards.”
O’Connell alleged he had been “forcibly pushed around the corner” by Pat Fitzgerald when attempting to move towards the Clare manager.
“He put his two hands on me... and I was verbally abused by Pat as well,” said O’Connell.
The secretary denied the accusation: “I saw Peter O’Connell and he had a look of vengeance and his teeth were clinched. He was tearing down the tunnel where there were women and children. There was an issue of health and safety. I restrained him and removed him outside the gate and asked him not to come back.”