GAA Football

Derry board's 'cost-cutting' cost dearly: Damian Barton

Damian Barton has claimed the Derry county board's "cost-cutting" contributed to the senior football team's struggles this year. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

DAMIAN Barton has slammed the lack of support from the Derry county board for their senior football team, arguing that “cost-cutting” means they’ve been operating “with one hand tied behind your back.”

The Newbridge clubman, who was not retained as manager after two seasons in charge, pointed out that this year he was told to operate with a panel of only 26 players – a limit he described as “an absolute joke”.

This year an under-strength, inexperienced Derry team were demoted from Division Two on scoring difference, lost at home to Tyrone in Ulster, then beat Waterford in the qualifiers before Mayo ousted them after extra time.

“You could say that was a failure,” acknowledged Barton, however he argued that the restrictions imposed contributed largely to that.

“Our support network is not good enough.. I was told we could have a manager, a coach, a doctor, a physio, an administrator, a performance analyst, and a strength and conditioning coach, that’s seven people – the last two of whom were employed by the county board anyway. One strength and conditioning coach to do all our teams? Absolutely impossible.

“I had one administrator, who was awesome – but he couldn’t tell me how much it cost to run the team, because he wasn’t privy to that information.

“We ran 40 to 45 players last year… This year we were told we only could run with 26, which is an absolute joke.”

Barton declared that the board’s attitude was “just cost-cutting after cost-cutting. To be quite honest, some time ago I very clearly saw that we were a bit of a financial burden, not least when we didn’t retain our Division Two status, compounded obviously by the Tyrone defeat.”

Barton listed other grievances including:

* The lack of a training weekend, which was legislated for in the calendar;

* Players not receiving boot vouchers until a week before their Ulster SFC opener against Tyrone;

* Not knowing if they could stay down in Mayo the day before the All-Ireland round 2A qualifier, which Derry took to extra time;

* No review of his time in charge, despite offering to present his views.

“There was a lack of support at board level, I have no qualms in saying that,” Barton said.

“In terms of `house-keeping issues’ we were way off the game. A week before the Tyrone game [in the Ulster SFC] our players had not even received a boot voucher. After negotiation with the GPA, I think Croke Park allowed for two boot vouchers.

“We got the boot voucher a day after we suggested that we wouldn’t talk to the press.

“With a 5 o’clock start for the Mayo game, we weren’t sure that week were we going to go down the night before.”

Barton praised generous main sponsors H & A Mechanical Services in particular but suggested that overall fundraising is not sufficient to help the Derry footballers:

“There’s so much that can be done, the goodwill is there to finance the team, and to make people more accountable would be a good starting point.

“Nobody has any idea of the support that Derry would have – if people would go and get it.

“I approached people about getting involved with Club Derry, passed their details on – and nobody approached them.”

The 1993 All-Ireland winner believes he should have been given at least one more year in charge, saying:

“I didn’t step down, I wouldn’t run away from anything.

“I failed some players, I admit. If we did get back for a third year, which I feel we were entitled to, there would have been changes – subtle changes, major changes. Let’s just say I’m a lot wiser than I was at the start.

“But what do you achieve in two years? The turnover of players we have had, for one reason or another, has just been incredible.

“If I asked our board what their five-year development plan was, even their two-, three-, four-year development plan was, I don’t think they would know, I don’t think they could show me that. That’s not good enough, but people like me go, without justification.

“I don’t know what the rationale was [for not being kept on]. I’m certainly very hurt and very disappointed.

“There are people of the opinion that I stepped down, which was suggested. There are people who have hidden behind the pathetic ‘get out of jail’ card that ‘We go back to the clubs every two years’, which is an absolute nonsense.

“Everyone on the board has to accept responsibility for how the entire county is being run, in terms of efficiency and effectiveness."

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