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*Tony Downey (right) with Denis Hynes and Senator Martin Conway. Photograph: Eamon Ward

A soccer delegate who was at the centre of controversy at the recent AGM of the Clare Schoolboys/Schoolgirls Soccer League (CSSL) has said he will not stop asking the difficult questions.

Following its AGM at the end of April, the CSSL issued an apology to clubs for “the turn the meeting took” which was in reference to a series of questions put to the committee by Tony Downey of Ennis Town. Lifford FC in correspondence to the CSSL have said they will not partake in meetings if Mr Downey is present.

Downey in response has circulated a letter to the CSSL which has been obtained by The Clare Echo. In it, he praised the committee for completing last year’s underage season and also issued his apologies to secretary Caroline O’Brien and ex treasurer Nigel Bradish but said their decision to send out a letter to clubs on his behaviour was “a knee-jerk reaction”.

In his letter, Downey gave a detailed account to explain his actions on the night of the virtual AGM. He referenced the questions he posed at the previous AGM that exposed several anomalies in the CSSL’s finances.

“Questions should always be asked and encouraged at AGM’s and no one should be afraid to ask hard questions. People may be shocked and dismayed by a tone of questioning, but sometimes there may be a valid reason,” the Ennis man explained. A “wrong signal” was sent out by not having the local media present at the AGM.

There is an onus on the committee to safeguard the finances which he said belong to the clubs and their players. The absence of individual breakdowns of the Clare ETP programme was poor book keeping, he felt.

Losses in the CSSL coffers are now rising to €9000 despite recording an income of €96,733 last season, Tony cautioned.

Concerns with the finances last year led to agreement for an audit of the accounts but this was not carried out, the treasurer of the CDSL flagged. “Delegates have requested this on several occasions throughout 2020/21 and it has fallen on deaf ears. To draw a line in the sand their needs to be an independent review of 2017,2018 & 2019 by an accountant chosen by the delegates”.

Transparency is lacking when it comes to the loan for Lifford FC, Downey said with reference to the amount, duration, loan repayment amount and date of the repayment.

Concluding his letter, Downey added, “To put me down or call me out on my line of questioning considering all that has happened is ironic. The apologies clearly need to come from the opposite side here”.

“One CSSL Committee member contacted the CDSL Chairman and said he would find it hard to work with me on that committee to me was in poor taste. Lifford Soccer club also made the same contact with the CDSL was also wrong. All this serves as bullying tactics designed to stop people asking the hard questions. There are many apologies that need to be made here, but as long as I continue to be a club delegate, I will not stop asking the difficult question and I urge other clubs always to encourage this. Tempers can flare in AGM’S like on the pitch. But when the final whistle is blown, we all need to shake hands and put the game behind us,” he wrote.

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