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Moloney and Darby back as Rouse steps into Wallace breach

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Moloney and Darby back as Rouse steps into Wallace breach thumbnailPaul Rouse

BRIAN Darby and John Moloney have returned to the Offaly senior football panel, training over the weekend, following the appointment of Tullamore man Paul Rouse as interim manager.

Moloney's return was widely anticipated in the wake of Stephen Wallace's departure as manager last week but Brian Darby's decision to come back is a big surprise - though the presence of his father Stephen on the new management team would have been a factor. The Rhode man had retired last year but decided to come back after being approached by the new management - it includes two Rhode men, Alan McNamee and Stephen Darby as well as Paul Rouse's brother, John.

John Moloney's return was inevitable once Wallace went and two Tullamore men became involved in the new management team. John Rouse is the Tullamore senior football manager and ironically he was at a mediation meeting between Moloney, Wallace, coach Billy Sheehan and County Board chairman Tommy Byrne earlier in the year.

Moloney had withdrawn from the panel after a clash with Kerry man Sheehan, that included an exchange of text messages - John Rouse managed Tullamore to a Senior Football Championship success in 2013 but the attempt by board chairman Tommy Byrne to broker peace at the meeting did not result in his return to the panel.

Incidentally, Wallace spoke about the meeting in an interview with the Tribune last week, describing it as one of the "most surreal experiences" of his life. The Kerry man claimed that he had been told John Moloney wished to meet him but once there, discovered that Moloney was under the impression he had called the meeting. Wallace said that the meeting actually "deepened the rift" between the parties.

Offaly GAA chairman Tommy Byrne stated on Monday that he called the meeting in a bid to get John Moloney and team management to sort out their differences and to get the Tullamore man back playing for Offaly.

Wallace was at Offaly training in Kilcormac's Faithful Fields last Wednesday and received word that night from Tommy Byrne that he was being replaced as Offaly senior football manager.

There had been mounting pressure on the Kerry man following the Leinster Senior Football Championship defeat by Wicklow, with a lot of rumours circulating about player dissatisfaction. A tweet from new selector Alan McNamee, in which he was critical of Wallace for Moloney's omission, was "liked" by a number of Offaly players, while Nigel Dunne had reacted angrily to being substituted during the first half and Sean Pender appeared less than impressed when taken off during the second half.

Nigel Dunne subsequently tweeted to deny that he had headed for his car at half time of the Wicklow match, saying he had left the dressing room to"get some air, have a sulk and feel sorry for myself, nothing more", adding that he was back on the subs bench by the start of the second half.

On Wednesday evening as the players trained and the Offaly GAA Management Committee met, the players submitted a statement to them, stating that they had returned to training in preparation for the qualifiers, were disappointed at their defeat to Wicklow, looked forward to improving their performance and were "very committed" to playing for Offaly under "current management".

Wallace stated on Friday that Sean Doyle had left the panel while Nigel Dunne, Shane Nally and Michael Brazil were among the players who didn't train on Wednesday evening - all of these players trained on Sunday evening with the new management.

After Wallace was removed on Wednesday night, a committee of board chairman Tommy Byrne, vice chairman Pauric Pierce and former star Vinny Claffey moved quickly to put new interim management in place and news of the appointment of Rouse et al was released on Friday evening - the players had trained themselves on Friday evening in a session called by team captain, Anton Sullivan and John Moloney was at this along with the existing panel.

Gracefield's Jamie Evans has also been added to the panel and it is believed that a couple of others will come on board once they have completed university exams.

John Rouse, Stephen Darby and Alan McNamee are doing the coaching while Dave Hare is back on board for the physical training - Hare was the physical trainer during Pat Flanagan's three year term as manager and was very popular with players.

The interim management will try and restore confidence ahead of the qualifiers on June 9 - the draw will take place on May 28 - and it is understood that they are delighted with the response from players, both ones who have been members of the panel of all years and those new ones they have asked to come in.

There had been hopes that the best forward in Offaly, Niall McNamee might return, especially with his brother Alan, on the management team, but this is not likely to happen. McNamee also retired at the end of 2018 and having come back in mid season last year with mixed results, he is very unlikely to do so again, even with the extraordinary circumstances that prevail at the moment.

Stephen Wallace has hit out at his treatment last week, complaining that the County Board allowed him to be "assassinated" and have a "hatchet job" done on him while speaking about the problems he encountered with back up support.

The new management will serve until the qualifiers are over and the process will then begin to appoint the 2019 manager.

Paul Rouse represents something of a left field appointment as he has not much experience with managing teams as the front man but is a very astute and popular individual, who has given a life time of commitment to football: as well as playing key roles as a player and on the management of successful Tullamore teams. His back up team includes very highly regarded and passionate football men and they will now steer Offaly through a difficult time.

It is the third time in ten years that Offaly have interim management in place after the abrupt departure of a manager and Rouse is Offaly's 14th manager since 2000 - he has not engaged in media interviews yet but will once the dust settles on the controversy and normality returns.

See pages 66 and 67 for interview with Stephen Wallace, Tommy Byrne's reply and a profile of the new interim management and see page 68 for comment on the affair.

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