Clubs set to vote on McCarthy's future
IT is all down to numbers now. Justin McCarthy's future as Limerick senior hurling manager is riding on a ballot at a special county board meeting in the city's Claughaun GAA club tonight.
Emotions are riding so high locally that the meeting will be held in camera. This is highly unusual, as the current Limerick board has never previously had any problems with media attendance.
But it is believed that the executive has made this unprecedented decision to keep the press out so that delegates will feel they can express their feelings in this dispute with no fear of repercussion or publicity.
The last time McCarthy's position was formally challenged, when delegates were asked to decide on a vote of confidence that the executive proposed in him in December, the result was 70-54 in the manager's favour.
Opponents immediately pointed out that the top table had an estimated 14 votes that night to indicate that the manager's winning margin was in fact smaller than many perceived.
That motion, interestingly, needed just a straight majority. Tonight's motion, which is effectively a vote of no confidence, needs a two-thirds majority to be passed, which is why many believe McCarthy will survive.
Even Adare secretary Kevin O'Mahony, whose club is one of those that have called for the meeting and change, admitted that he believes McCarthy will be safe because of the two-thirds needed to remove him.
"Clubs won't vote against their own players and there are a lot of new clubs with players on the county panel," O'Mahony pointed out.
Yet he also raised an issue which has become inescapable for Limerick hurling folk and may have swung some hearts and minds in recent weeks.
Back in December, some supported McCarthy because they didn't want to set a precedent of players calling the shots over a county manager; they didn't want to accede to what is termed 'player power' -- even though this dispute is clearly far more complicated than that lazy cliché.
Since then, the team McCarthy has gathered around him in the absence of last year's dropped and self-exiled players has been proven not to be up to the job, no matter how sincere, hardworking and honest their endeavours.
O'Mahony said: "There are wrongs on both sides here but it's the end result I'm looking at. Tipp put out a half decent team last Sunday and hammered us. The current Limerick players are doing their best but what favours are we doing them?"
In the wake of the debacle that has followed December's motion, and especially four league defeats in a row, have any clubs changed their minds since?
At least one club had a meeting on Sunday night in the immediate aftermath of that horrible 22-point defeat, a result which proved beyond doubt that the current Limerick team, stripped of the experience and skill of most of last year's panel, is free-falling towards relegation and a disastrous summer campaign.
Tonight's vote, as happened in December, is again expected to be private after a secret ballot is proposed from the floor. That, also, may influence some votes, despite how clubs mandate their representatives.
There are only 12 executive votes this time, as the county secretary is a full-time official and another board member has no vote currently because his position is still awaiting formal ratification from central council.
Having supported McCarthy throughout, the top table will be mandated to maintain the status quo. But a secret ballot would allow executive members to go against the whip and that is believed to be a possibility in a couple of cases.
Tonight's meeting is not actually debating a vote of no confidence in McCarthy, though it amounts to the same thing.
Procedurally, to oust McCarthy, what has to happen is that decisions taken at three previous Limerick board monthly meetings have got to be reversed.
Thus delegates will be voting on a motion "to rescind the decisions taken at the December 2009, January 2010 and February 2010 board meetings regarding the affirmation of the present senior hurling team management, appointment of additional selector and the appointment of the Limerick senior hurling liaison officer respectively."
The required 'notice of motion' from the minimum of five clubs is believed to have been submitted from Adare, Ahane, Croom, Garryspillane and Patrickswell.
Rumour and innuendo has dogged this controversy for months now and shown no signs of abating.
The latest speculation is that some clubs who have become split over the issue may yet even abstain from tonight's vote, so any estimations of what McCarthy needs to survive are wasted until it happens.
Yet even if the numbers fall in the manager's favour, a narrow winning margin will still leave him under extreme pressure, which will only increase further if his inexperienced team, who face Offaly, Kilkenny and Dublin in the coming weeks, keep suffering demoralising defeats like last Sunday's at the business end of the league.