Don't push it
Published 20/04/2010 | 05:00
If Justin McCarthy was, by any chance, considering walking away after the terrible mauling his team had received in Dublin just 24 hours earlier, he'll surely have been swayed the other way by the soothing words of Limerick's main sponsor in the city yesterday.
At a civic reception to honour his ownership of the Grand National winning horse, JP McManus drew parallels with his own pursuit of National Hunt racing's blue riband event, which ended earlier this month.
On 33 previous occasions, McManus sent his famed colours, those thin green and yellow hoops that represent the original jerseys of his own South Liberties club, to Liverpool for the greatest steeplechase of them all and met nothing but heartbreak and disappointment each time.
Finally, the inappropriately named Don't Push It delivered in style, ending the long drought that McManus compared to Limerick's 33-year wait for an All-Ireland title, which ended back in 1973.
On that occasion, the young entrepreneur was one of the first faces the great full-back Pat Hartigan recalled breaking the security cordon to gain access to the winning dressing-room. JP, it seems, always had a way.
In Limerick City Hall yesterday he had a seminal message for those gathered to honour the equine achievement: the show must go on.
McCarthy was in the crowd and will have taken heart from the words of the businessman who, as such a generous benefactor to the board, undoubtedly carries influence he may not always, if ever, be keen to exert.
"I was in Parnell Park -- like a thousand other Limerick supporters yesterday. What can I say? I keep my fingers crossed for the future," said McManus.
"We had 33 attempts trying to win the National and we didn't give up.
"It took Limerick 33 years to win one All-Ireland (1940-73). If they had given up in between, we would never have won the one.
"I am sure the current management and team and everybody connected with Limerick hurling will do everything in their power to try to see that we do get back on top again."
"I was thinking yesterday in Parnell Park -- never, never, never give up. Success will come your way, but you have to keep working at it."
McManus' positive outlook is not shared by many in his native county. In fact you would have to search hard for any similar sentiment, especially after Sunday's crushing defeat.
For the first time this season, a team went in against Limerick with a proper cause. Dublin were piqued by the notion that they were even considered vulnerable in the game, saw it as a slight almost and worked to ensure their preservation as a Division 1 side. They left no margin for error, leaving a young Limerick side with an idea of what may be to come.
Parnell Park represented a nadir for Limerick hurling, shredding any previous notions of progress they may have generated from performances in Waterford, Tullamore or the Gaelic Grounds against Kilkenny.
What must their morale be like now? Seven straight defeats was enough to convince the now former Westmeath football manager Brendan Hackett to discharge himself honourably from the position, albeit with the communal axe of his players hanging over his head.
McCarthy clearly doesn't see it in the same cold light as Hackett did. He sees a way. It may involve a lot of pain, humiliation and embarrassment, but there would seem to be no doubt that he still has the stomach for a fight and a vision for Limerick hurling.
Many clubs may be tempted to move against the management again in one last bid to avoid the inevitable, but it's too late for that.
What's the point in trying to effect change with six weeks left to the championship?
Limerick have two games left in 2010. If they see them out, then the board will have seen off player power but at what expense to the game of hurling in the county?
The last eight months have been book-ended by two of the worst defeats in the county's history, yet the show still rolls on. It's sowing the seeds for apathy in the future.
Limerick GAA is handing the initiative to other sports in the city and county. When that happens surely it's no longer their own business to sort out.
Richie Bennis, the former manager who made way for McCarthy almost two years ago, prefers these days to keep a quiet counsel on the dispute.
He does know this, though. Hurling is no longer a conversation on the ground in Limerick. Three weeks back, he was involved in a Patrickswell under-age team that went to Tullamore to play a challenge match against a local side in conjunction with the senior team's visit.
When the game was over, appetite among the young men to travel on to O'Connor Park was poor so the majority headed home. It was much the same story when another under-age team he has acquaintance with went to Waterford. The county has switched off.
Three weeks ago, Bennis appealed directly to the players who refuse to play for McCarthy to reconsider returning in the wake of the vote that kept McCarthy emphatically in control, a vote that effectively consigned the county to relegation.
It is impossible to quantify the damage being done to Limerick hurling and the rate of recovery involved. Suffice to say that the damage will be calculated in years, not months.