altA MAJOR row has errupted in Irish athletics after it emerged Patsy McGonagle (pictured), who heads up the country's high performance committee, was under investigation for gross misconduct.


In a short statement Athletics Ireland (AAI) confirmed that contact between McGonagle and their staff has been suspended while the investigation is ongoing.


Last Wednesday McGonagle had to move a meeting of the high performance committee to a hotel as he was not permitted to hold it in AAI's offices in Santry. 
The statement comes in the wake of reports of a breakdown in the working relationship between McGonagle and AAI's chief executive Mary Coughlan.


McGonagle, who has the full backing of other members on the high performance committee, has yet to comment on the matter, except to confirm the ongoing difficulties between himself and Coghlan.


McGonagle has been a member of the board for 16 years, and was Olympic team manager for both the Sydney and Beijing Olympics.


The row is believed to be linked to the proposed appointment of a high-profile director of coaching to replace Max Jones, the former performance director of UK Athletics.


Several leading candidates have been approached and interviewed, including Paul Doyle, the agent of former world 100 metres record holder Asafa Powell, and Robert Korzeniowski, Poland's multi gold-medal winning walker.


Two leading British coaches have also been interviewed.


They are Alan Storey, the former coach of 2000 Olympic 5,000m silver medallist Sonia O'Sullivan, who was recently voted on as a member of the ruling Executive Board of the Olympic Council of Ireland.


Storey, a former chief executive of the London Marathon, was Britain's director for endurance but announced his decision to resign after the Beijing Olympics and is currently working out the details of his departure.


The other British candidate is Chris Jones, the former head coach of Britain's triathlon team until his resignation last year.


He has since established a successful consultancy business that includes working with Triathlon Ireland to implement a national performance structure and strategy for London 2012.