Limerick left in dark over Ryan snub controversy
Bitter row erupts over former boss' rejection for intermediate role, writes Dermot Crowe
LIMERICK GAA remains in the dark – officially at least – over why Tom Ryan wasn't an acceptable choice as county intermediate hurling manager at a fiery meeting on Thursday night, proving that when it comes to controversy few do it better. This should be a relatively quiet period in the lead up to Christmas and the positives of Na Piarsaigh's triumph in Munster have been hijacked by a row that is pure Ballymagash in content and creation.
It is the easiest thing in the world to start pontificating to county boards about their shortcomings but sometimes they leave you with little choice. The bones of the dispute are the following: the board agreed to appoint a five-man sub-committee, chaired by the board vice-chairman Pat Heffernan, to find management teams to run the county under 21 and intermediate hurling teams in 2014. They presented Ciaran Carey as manager of the under 21s, which was accepted at a county board meeting on Monday night last and put to the clubs for ratification on the following Thursday. The intermediate team will have to be kept in suspense a little longer.
Ryan was the committee's choice as manager and he had already been ratified as a selector on Carey's under 21 management panel. But it seems the prospect of him actually managing a Limerick county team is too unpalatable or terrifying for the Limerick executive. They rejected Ryan on Monday, and when a special meeting was called on Thursday the clubs attempted to have him installed. A proposal from the floor, which was seconded, was ruled out of order, causing uproar.
Demands to know why Ryan was jettisoned fell on deaf ears, or no adequate explanation was forthcoming. Sources say that the issue stems from a fear of Ryan's media profile and propensity to shoot from the hip. He is an outspoken media commentator and newspaper columnist who has a long history of conflict with county board officials.
Board chairman Oliver Mann attempted a resolution on Thursday by offering to find an alternative but this was given short shrift by the club delegates. After an hour of sometimes heated exchanges, Mann decided that with no conclusion in sight the meeting should be adjourned. Efforts are now likely to resume to find a resolution but it is believed that the committee which put forward Ryan as manager is not willing to row back on its decision.
Already Limerick have appointed their senior management, awarded jointly to TJ Ryan and Donal O'Grady. Limerick won their first Munster senior championship since 1996 this year but were disappointed by their surrender to Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final. Ryan was in charge when they won Munster in '96 and also led them to a provincial win in '94, though they lost the All-Ireland final both years. He also won a league in 1997.
Ryan's turbulent experience was in stark contrast to Carey being rubber-stamped, with Mark Foley, Liam O'Donoghue and Ryan ratified as selectors.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, county secretary Mike O'Riordan defended the decision not to put Ryan's management team to the club delegates for ratification.
"There was a lot of debate on both management teams and everything was discussed thoroughly. The feeling was that the intermediate management team wouldn't be sanctioned. There was lengthy debate – this was not done on a whim," O'Riordan said.
The selectors proposed by the sub-committee were Jimmy Carroll, Pat Howard, Tony Roche and Don Flynn.
Ryan, when asked later for his views, said he had received no reason why his management team was not sanctioned. He said he did not seek an explanation either. He said he was "hugely disappointed" and "shocked".
It is understood that when the sub-committee was asked to find the two management teams, it was given a list of names to consider. A source said that they were under no compulsion to adhere to the names on the list but that most did make the final cut. Of the eight people put forward, six had been on the list offered as a guide by the main board officers.