Treaty draw line in sand
As the tellers for last night's ballot in Claughaun's freshly painted clubhouse moved to another room to pour over the 133 votes that had just been cast, Limerick County Board chairman Liam Lenihan used the break in proceedings to address other business.
It wasn't a regular board meeting, but he still felt compelled to congratulate Ard Scoil Ris on the success in winning the Harty Cup and putting themselves in a position to become the first team from the county to win the All-Ireland colleges championship since 1967.
Limerick hurling has never been in a lower place. The last seven months, since their capitulation to Tipperary at Croke Park and the subsequent furore over Justin McCarthy's squad cull, has brought the team virtually to its knees. But the Ard Scoil Ris progression provided a flicker of hope for the future.
What that future holds after last night's resounding vote of confidence in McCarthy remains to be seen, but for now the clubs in Limerick have the manager they want -- in the short term at least.
There were no cheers when Lenihan read out the result, just a quiet acknowledgement that what had to be done, was done. Limerick have not so much approved McCarthy and his team, rather they shown that they are opposed to the idea that players are all powerful in these matters.
They may not win a competitive game of any significance for the next few months, but last night they made a stand and drew a line in the sand, for better or for worse. "This is the end of the matter now. The clubs in the county have spoken and it is put to bed. We got the unanimous support of the clubs here tonight," said Lenihan afterwards.
He appealed for a change of heart from the players who remain out of the loop,.
"The door is still open and we need those players. I would never give up hope. We all make decisions in life, but people change their minds."
There was little debate last night, most delegates had their minds made up beforehand. But the evening distinctly lacked passion. Clearly there is a weariness that has taken its toll.
The motion to rescind decisions relating to the senior management and the appointment of another selector (John Tuohy) and the liaison officer (Pat Creed) at three previous meetings, in February, January and December last year, had been proposed by Ahane delegate Donal Morrissey.
"It is about getting a conclusion to the matter. We are where we are now. There can be no more trading of one side against the other," said Morrissey. "We are five months into this crisis without a solution.
"In any correspondence from the secretary, this is described as an impasse. The reality is, it has been a crisis and it has been a crisis for five months.
"Tonight we have an opportunity to address this, so that we don't arrive here again next September with a deflated team and the permanent loss of some of our best players. If there was a destination called 'shambles' that's where we are heading."
But his words, for the most part, fell on deaf ears as the strength of junior clubs told. The Ahane proposal was seconded by Patrickswell delegate Paul Foley, who declared that "a new direction has to be taken."
Foley suggested that there were "too many risks" if the current strategy of retaining McCarthy remained in place and he added that "the evidence to date shows that it is a strategy that will not win the hearts and minds of the young people in Limerick."
A proposal from primary schools delegate Henry Martin to have an open vote so that the "cloak and dagger" secrecy of previous meetings could be removed was soundly beaten.
The lobby to remove McCarthy sustained a blow on Monday night when Kilmallock, one of the clubs with players on both sides of the divide, voted to oppose the motions being put to the floor. And from there it was all downhill for those who want McCarthy removed.
As the meeting in Claughaun got under way, McCarthy took charge of squad training at the Staker Wallace GAA club in Martinstown, not far from the home of Limerick GAA benefactor JP McManus.
Limerick have limped through the league, with four straight defeats surprising nobody. But the performances against Galway, Cork and Waterford have been mildly encouraging, though matters took a turn for the worse at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday when they suffered a 22-point defeat to Tipperary.
With games remaining against Offaly, Dublin and Kilkenny, it is difficult to see Limerick salvaging the situation at this late stage. The season, as far as success is concerned, is as good as over.
The vote most certainly means that Mark Foley has played his last game for Limerick, having served the county since the latter stage of the 1994 championship. Foley was one of the players dropped by McCarthy in October.
Others such as Damien Reale, Brian Murray, Brian Geary, Seamus Hickey, and Gavin O'Mahony may return, but their relationship with Limerick may now be stained forever.