The Secretary of the Kerry District League, John O’Regan, has said that the money he collected from spectators at a recent game at Mounthawk Park in Tralee was for charity.
O’Regan denies claims that he charged an admission fee of €5 at the Premier A League Final between Killarney Athletic and Killarney Celtic, a match that was supposed to be played behind closed doors in line with COVID-19 restrictions.
He also rejects suggestions that upwards of 180 people were at the league decider, stating that the initial accusations were made by someone with a “personal vendetta” which stems from O’Regan’s friendship with disgraced former FAI CEO John Delaney.
Meanwhile, as was reported by Paul Rowan and Mark Tighe of The Sunday Times, the FAI have said that they are “investigating attendances at fixtures in Kerry”.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser yesterday, O’Regan confirmed that fans were, indeed, asked for money as they entered the ground – as had been reported by multiple attendees – but the long-serving secretary insisted that the money in question was for charity.
“We weren’t allowed to charge but we were collecting for the Red Cross,” O’Regan said. “And what we were asking people to do was to make a donation. Anybody who wanted to donate to the Red Cross was allowed to do so. And people did donate generously.
“Next Thursday night we’ll be presenting the Red Cross with a cheque for €1,000 that we collected at the game. But there was no charge as such.
“Now, the players were charged €2, as always. We’re entitled to do that. That’s a development levy that everyone pays. Otherwise we wouldn’t have Mounthawk Park. It’s a levy that was agreed by all the clubs and very few people complained about it.
“We’re still developing as you can see. We’re starting another bit of a stand at the back of the goals. We haven’t made a bob for I don’t know how long and we’ve got nothing from the FAI. We have insurance and we have work that was done by builders and things over the years. Our reserves are starting to run down a bit.”
As for the number of spectators watching the game itself, O’Regan accepted that there may have been people there who shouldn’t have been, but he also asserted that “no guidelines were broken” by the Kerry District League.
“If somebody came to me and said their young fella was playing and he’s under 18, they were allowed in,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 recommendation which states that minors may be accompanied to a match by one parent or guardian.
The Premier A is a senior league so the vast majority of each squad participating in the final was made up of adults. If the players aged 17 and under brought one parent each, this should have accounted for three spectators.
Eyewitness accounts suggest that there may have been around 120 spectators at the fixture, excluding matchday personnel such as players, management, match officials, first aid, league officials and media.
(At this point it should be noted that this journalist was actually playing in the game. While I did not count the number of people and cannot verify the exact attendance, it is fair to say that there were more people there than there should have been, something O’Regan accepts.)
O’Regan said that a training session and another match that were also being held at the facility on the day in question may have contributed to the crowd. He also posited that some spectators may have snuck in via alternative routes.
“There was a few there alright but I can’t do anything about what’s passing up and down,” he said.
“We don’t have the luxury of having everything walled in like Fitzgerald Stadium or Austin Stack Park. They can come in through Tralee Dynamos’ pitch – now, I don’t know whether they did or not [for this match] – and, unfortunately, on the left-hand-side there’s a walkway and people can come from the middle of Tralee or Caherslee.
“Maybe a few people got in that way. There are a few gaps all over the place.”
On Sunday, Rowan and Tighe revealed that the FAI were looking into the incident, but yesterday O’Regan told the Killarney Advertiser that “to the best of [his] knowledge” there was no investigation underway.
However, this morning the FAI have again confirmed that they are following up on the KDL’s alleged breach of COVID-19 restrictions.
In a brief statement to the Killarney Advertiser, a spokesperson said: “The FAI is investigating attendances at fixtures in Kerry.”
Read the full interview with John O’Regan in Friday’s Killarney Advertiser as he discusses his critics, his friendship with John Delaney and his thoughts on his future as league secretary
Above: File photo of Mounthawk Park in Tralee. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.