Duignan to contest Offaly GAA chair as Byrne refuses to "stand down"



MICHAEL Duignan (Durrow and formerly St Rynagh's) is to run for chairman of the Offaly GAA County Board later this year. In an expected but still shock announcement this week, Duignan confirmed that he would be challenging the incumbent, Tommy Byrne (Gracefield) at the Offaly GAA Convention.

While Michael Duignan was warm in his praise on Monday for the contribution that current board officers have made over the years, it is clear that the contest has the potential to get acrimonious.

Tommy Byrne told the Tribune on Monday that he had been asked to “stand down” but will not do so under any circumstances. Michael Duignan stated that they did not ask the chairman to step down but they did inform him that they felt a “change of leadership was required”.

A former hurler and footballer with Offaly, Duignan won All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship medals in 1994 and 1998, collecting an All-Star in '98. He gave long service to St Rynagh's GAA Club and lives in the Durrow area – a member of Durrow GAA Club, he has also played with Ballinamere and has been involved in managing successful underage sides with Ballinamere/Durrow. He has developed a prominent national profile through his work as a hurling analyst with RTE and in other media outlets.

Duignan was among the people who convened a meeting in Tullamore a couple of weeks ago to determine if there was an “appetite for change” in Offaly GAA and now he has put himself forward while two Clara men, Dervill Dolan and Brian Gavin, and Edenderry's Colm Cummins have also stated that they will challenge for positions –Colm Cummins will challenge Kilcormac/Killoughey's Niall Gleeson for vice chairman and Dolan and Gavin have not yet announced what positions they will go for.

A representative group of Duignan, Cummins, Dolan and former Offaly hurling hero, Brian Whelahan (Birr) and former footballer Stephen Darby (Rhode) met with Offaly GAA chairman Tommy Byrne and other officers last week to outline their concerns about Offaly GAA.

Tommy Byrne stated that this was a “short meeting”. He said: “They asked me to stand down and I told them I wouldn't. I said if I stood aside when approached by a group like that, I would be a disgrace to myself and the position I hold.”

Stating that “everyone is entitled to run for position”, he said that there is “no doubt” that he will be seeking to retain his position at Convention.

In a noticifation sent to clubs last week about their intentions, Dervill Dolan wrote:

“Following the demise of Football and Hurling in Offaly over the past number of years and Offaly’s relegation to the Christy Ring Cup, a deep sense of frustration arose within the GAA community. Throughout the summer a series of conversations involving interested parties from the wider Offaly GAA community culminated in a meeting to consider if there was an appetite for change in Offaly GAA. 

Continued on page 46.

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