No climbdown from Limerick exiles
Hickey reveals Limerick exiles to train together as they maintain steadfast anti-McCarthy stance
Limerick hurler Seamus Hickey has broken his silence over the ongoing controversy on Shannonside and has reiterated that the members of the 2009 squad who have withdrawn their services remain "steadfast" in their refusal to play for the county while Justin McCarthy is still in charge.
As the county prepares for the latest board meeting to review the present stand-off, Hickey, one of the county's finest talents, also revealed that the members of the 2009 squad who remain on the sidelines in protest plan to train collectively at least once, if not twice, a week "for the immediate future."
The presence of a parallel squad training in isolation to the 'official' squad now draws a much greater comparison to the situation in Cork 12 months ago and gives clear visibility to the group of players opposed to McCarthy remaining in charge.
Whether the move to train is too late or not remains to be seen, but it's a clear change in approach from the disgruntled players who had, until last Sunday night, not gathered for collective training. That session in Knocklong was overseen by Derry O'Donovan, former trainer to Eamonn Cregan during his time in Offaly and later Limerick.
Hickey backed up the theme of the statement issued late Sunday night by the disaffected hurlers, insisting that players were being "misled" with information about colleagues that were reportedly coming back.
"Even after our last statement (in January) when 25 players made it clear they wouldn't play again under the current regime there were players being constantly contacted by Board members and members of the management," said Hickey.
"I haven't been contacted myself but it's clear there were attempts to create uncertainty among our group. It was mainly younger players being targeted in this way, being told that others were on the verge of coming back. One of the more senior players was also approached in this way.
"I wasn't aware it had been going on as much until the players involved gave details of it on Sunday night."
Hickey, one of the players the current management would surely love to have back, said he would consider the resolve of the group to remain united to be "very strong" despite James O'Brien's return last week.
The decision to train collectively is borne out of a need to generate "a greater togetherness" on the issue.
"Up to now we have acted very much as individuals, everyone has made their own decisions. But on Sunday night we decided it would be good to get together at least once a week. With commitments given to clubs it may be limited to that but it could move to two. We felt it would be better to meet regularly as a group."
Tonight's meeting in Claughaun is certain to discuss the impasse and hear back from the executive on the failed attempt to introduce Croke Park officials as mediators. Up to yesterday evening no motions of no confidence had been tabled in the current management.
Limerick chairman Liam Lenihan said the accusations made by the players would be addressed at tonight's meeting.
On mediation, Hickey said the players felt there was little point because the one big issue was so cut and dried.
"I should have two league games played by now but the manner in which the players were let go from the squad last October made my decision. No one has any right to a place on a county squad but there was no courtesy, no professionalism about how it was done. That's the least any player deserved.
"One of our group was actually asked to retire by a member of the '09 management," revealed Hickey.
Hickey said he appreciated that the public was "sick and tired" of the issue and were losing interest in it.
"The crowd in the Gaelic Grounds for the Cork game was probably a reflection of that. But there's a principle involved for us (2009 players). We couldn't go back under the present regime."
Hickey said the statement was not timed to influence delegates ahead of tonight's meeting but was designed to "set the record straight" about the recent speculation concerning players making their return.