Kerry District League Secretary John O’Regan says that “personal attacks” and media criticism have made him consider his position as the head of soccer in the county.
O’Regan has come under fire this week amidst allegations that the league broke COVID-19 restrictions by allowing spectators to attend a recent league final, and by charging an admission fee of €5 at the gate.
As was reported by the Killarney Advertiser on Tuesday, O’Regan denies that any restrictions were breached.
The FAI have confirmed that they are investigating attendances at fixtures in Kerry.
Social media posts about the match and the alleged breach prompted an article by Champagne Football authors Paul Rowan and Mark Tighe in The Sunday Times, but O’Regan has insisted that the man who was responsible for making the initial comments, a former FAI Referee Observer, has a “vendetta” against him.
The person in question claimed that 180 people were at the league final, and that supporters paid an entry fee, in a post he shared on the ‘Supporters of Junior Soccer Players’ Facebook page on Tuesday, September 8.
“This man wasn’t even there, from what I can gather. It’s all hearsay with him as far as I’m concerned,” O’Regan said.
“It’s a very, very personal vendetta, just because I was a friend of John Delaney’s.”
Last year O’Regan emerged as one of Delaney’s fiercest allies as he stuck with the embattled CEO in the face of a litany of serious allegations, which ultimately forced Delaney to resign. Last October, after the controversial administrator had been forced out of the Association for good, O’Regan said that he couldn’t see what Delaney had done wrong.
“My association with John Delaney goes back years and years, even before he was ever involved with the FAI. He was a friend of mine. He’s still a friend of mine.
I don’t condone everything he did, alright? All I’m saying is what he did for Kerry. That’s what I’m saying, and I can only judge him by what he did for us.
“He (the person who made the comments) is on that drum the whole time. All I do is ignore whatever he puts up online.
“Himself and the other gentleman say that I’m being kept in my job by the hurling clubs in North Kerry.
“There are eight hurling clubs in North Kerry. That’s all that’s there. That small little pocket.
“The Kenmares and the Dingles and the Mastergeehas and the Asdees, they’re all the people who vote for me. They’re the people I represent.
“When they don’t want me, they’ll tell me.”
O’Regan, who has presided over Kerry soccer for the better part of half a century, has faced stern criticism in recent times, both for supporting Delaney and for other matters relating to league governance.
He says he takes comfort from phone calls he receives from friends and allies whenever something negative is written about him, but, in light of the latest controversy, he admits that the media attention and online comments have taken their toll on him personally.
“I’m there at Mounthawk Park 24/7. I was so exhausted yesterday evening (after the Greyhound Bar KO Cup final, which was won by Killarney Celtic), I went home and went to bed at nine o’clock. I didn’t get up ‘til half nine this morning. And I said to myself, it’d be a lot easier for me to just turn the key on the place and leave it closed down.
“That’s what will happen I’d say shortly because I can’t keep going.
“All I’m trying to do is provide an outlet for people to play football. If this is going to be the result, that I’m being personally attacked…”
He trails off. Does this mean that he has considered stepping down?
“Well, I’ll tell you the honest truth: there are times that I feel like leaving. I’m too long in the game and I wish some other fella would take it over. I’m secretary of the Kerry District League 46 years now. And in all that time, nobody seems to want it. If somebody wants it, I’ve no problem with that.
“I’m getting tired of it anyway, Adam. I’ll tell you the truth boy.”