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Clare GAA secretary Pat Fitzgerald has hit out at a perceived “witch-hunt” that is brewing within the Association.

Tuesday’s meeting of the County Board didn’t take long to raise temperatures with the first speaker on the evening prompting debate and as officials stood up to the long-running critiques of Caherlohan.

Whitegate’s David Solon referenced aspects from a recent Irish Independent article as the minutes of the March meeting were to be passed. “A few things stated on that day didn’t seem to sit right with the public view of Caherlohan,” he admitted. He questioned the comments relating to ‘pristine conditions’ of the pitches and believed “negligence” was evident in how Caherlohan’s pitches were managed and sought an update on the water quality of the facility.

Solon said he was “amused” by comments of Chairman Jack Chaplin in the article when it came to the setting up of the now scrapped hurling committee, “you said you contacted managers you knew”, he added before listing off Mike McNamara, Cyril Lyons, Seamus Durack, Tony Considine and Ger Loughnane as ex managers not contacted.

“Is this something to do with the minutes or are you making a statement,” Chaplin replied. “You’ve gone onto reference a newspaper article and talking about water quality. Will we go through minutes or have a debate with what is said in papers or managers contacted,” he asked.

Issues on the surface of Caherlohan were “never addressed,” the East Clare representative stated. He said members of the sub-committee in place had been already there for “five or six years, it is under their watchful eye that this happened”.

The Chairman stated, “I don’t know about what went on before. Pitches everywhere need constant upgrading and can go bad anywhere. We’re on the minutes. We have a group set up to look into Caherlohan. Can we move on with minutes”.

Attempts to move on were stalled by Wolfe Tones delegate Dermot O’Donnell who called for no investment in Caherlohan to be made until the strategic plan for Clare GAA is finished. Sub committees were established prior to this, Chaplin outlined, “the review won’t be done until September, in the meantime we must get Caherlohan up to the best condition we can”.

Secretary of Clare GAA, Pat Fitzgerald interjected to inform the meeting sand-based pitches were not put in place as the money was not available. He repeated a request for a club delegate to tell him how much the pitches cost “because everyone seems to know”. All costs were sanctioned by consultant engineers, he said. “Can someone tell me the inordinate sum of money that was spent on pitches. If you get ordinary pitch done tomorrow, it will be €140k per pitch, if you get if for cheaper please come back and tell me”.

Fitzgerald continued, “I haven’t reacted to this for a long time, it’s going on two years and it’s gone out of hand, I’m sorry I didn’t react sooner”. He said the repeated critiques were “a witch-hunt”. He said ex Treasurer Bernard Keane once described Caherlohan as “the greatest achievement of his time”.

O’Donnell told the secretary he was not talking about pitches but rather the “overall costing put out there”. Repeated questions from Fitzgerald to O’Donnell on the amount spent for pitches went unanswered, “unless we have the figure, you’re talking in a vacuum. You have to know the figure”.

A “myth” exists regarding the cost of Caherlohan, the county secretary commented. “There are 56 people logged onto this meeting and no one has come in to tell me the cost, I’m waiting to hear”.

Tubber’s Andrew Monaghan said they completed a pitch from start to finish at a cost of €84,000 last year.

Pitches at Caherlohan cost €680,000 which included fees for engineers and drawings, Fitzgerald told the meeting. “I don’t get into social media, some site has all the information that everybody is going by. Based on this, there must be a witch hunt against somebody”.

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