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Byline: Garry DOYLE Chief Sports Writer

CORK City chairman Brian Lennox launched an astonishing attack on British football last night - accusing their clubs of 'sickening arrogance'.

In an emotional outburst, Lennox made an extraordinary claim that British clubs were acting like imperialists and treating Irish clubs as colonial subjects.

The rhetoric sounded like Michael Collins, yet instead was delivered from the mouth of a much quieter Cork rebel whose frustration at the state of the game in Ireland is blindingly obvious.

Lennox remains aggrieved with Reading for stealing Kevin Doyle and Shane Long for a combined fee of EUR130,000 18 months ago - and for making an initial offer of just EUR100,000 for Alan Bennett.

He has also been infuriated by Ipswich Town's pennypinching in the George

O'Callaghan deal - and by Celtic and West Ham's request to take Roy O'Donovan on trial.

As a result he has decided to go on the offensive, insisting British clubs are treating Irish football with disrespect.

Lennox said: "Who do these people think they are to come here and talk to us like second class citizens? Do they think Britain is still an Imperial power and Ireland still one of their colonies?

"Do they think we should tip our cap and say 'yes sir, no sir' just because we have assets who they think should belong to them.

"I'm sick to death of their arrogance, of the way they speak to us, of the way they offer pennies for our top guys who are worth a hell of a lot more to them.

"It's about time every club in Ireland stood up and said no more.

Having said all that, it would help if the people of Ireland began to show a bit more respect for our League than for theirs.

"If they did then it would be easier for us to hold onto our players. As it is, things are difficult because these clubs come over here and sell this dream to players.

"They talk big but they don't spend big. They don't pay the requisite fee.

"Yet when Reading were chasing a defender from Colchester, they were bidding in excess of EUR1 million. Yet for Alan Bennett, they only offered a fraction of that price. It's time someone stood up to them."

And so the prospect of Bennett or O'Donovan leaving Cork in the January transfer window have reduced. Yet both players are out of contract at the end of this eircom season.

This prompts one straightforward question of Lennox - and every other chairman in Ireland - and relates to their naivete in failing to tie their top stars down on longer deals. Lennox accepts the criticism yet says that players are unwilling to sign any contracts lengthier than two years.

He argued: "In the last four or five years all the top players in Ireland have got agents who, essentially, are looking to get their player the best deal possible.

"Players won't sign a fouryear- deal because they know that will stand in their way of getting a move across the water."

Bennett and O'Donovan have made it clear that they too want to try their luck in England.

Reading, meanwhile, are running out of time. They are likely to make a third bid of EUR250,000 and tell Cork to take it or leave it. In reality, they will need to treble that fee to convince Lennox to sell.

Lennox said: "I don't want to be the killer of any young lad's dreams but there are a lot of people in Cork who are dreaming too about this team staying together.

"Yet here we are in 2007 - 85 years after this League started and we're still in the dark ages, still living on a shoestring, still struggling to keep a team together.

"Look at what has happened in the last six weeks. Elevenplayers have left this League for clubs in England and Scot- land. Five of them went on free transfers. The other six went for roughly EUR450,000. These are our best players yet that is all we can get for them.

"Running a club in this country is difficult. It's costly. "If we were to lose our best players then it would lesson our earning potential.

"Look at the TV money. We get EUR5000 for every live game we screen. In Scotland they get EUR80,000. In the English Premiership, they get EUR800,000.

"That's the reason why money is so tight. That's why we don't want to sell our players cheaply. If British clubs showed us more respect then I'd perhaps show more respect to them."


DREAMS SHATTERED: Alan Bennett and Roy O' Donovan will not be allowed to leave for a British club on the cheap
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 20, 2007
Previous Article:Football: FENLON PICKS UP AWARD.

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