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Cody: Limerick won't be able to compete

BRIAN CODY believes it is "not possible" to replace an entire panel and be competitive among the higher echelons of inter-county hurling.

But that is the scenario currently facing Limerick unless the county board's call for Croke Park mediation can resolve a seemingly irretrievable split between hurling boss Justin McCarthy and his disaffected 2009 squad.

With 24 players from last year's panel either dropped by McCarthy or else subsequently refusing to play for the embattled Corkman, the Shannonside board belatedly grasped the enormity of the crisis on Tuesday night. Several commentators have viewed Limerick's request for HQ intervention as the first tacit acceptance that McCarthy's position is untenable. But according to GAA president Christy Cooney, Croke Park will only enter a mediation process on condition that "all parties are serious about trying to progress a solution".

"That means that the team management, the players and the county board are all prepared to sit around the table with an open mind," Cooney explained. "We are not going to get involved if any of the parties are not willing to give that kind of commitment, because you couldn't resolve an issue under those circumstances."

He admitted the current impasse is not in the interests of the GAA at national as well as county level, expressing fears that a weakened Limerick team would have a lopsided affect on the upcoming Allianz Hurling League.

"You saw what happened with Cork last year and that's not helpful to the county themselves or their opposition," remarked Cooney. "We certainly wouldn't want a repeat of the hammering Cork got in Kilkenny last year."

However, the president didn't share the more downbeat assessment of GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell, who expressed fears that it was already too late for mediation to work. "It's never too late to find a solution," Cooney maintained.

Cody's comments about playing with weakened squads came in the context of Kilkenny's recent loss to Offaly in the Walsh Cup.

The All-Ireland kingpins played with a very inexperienced team -- proof that Kilkenny's legendary talent pool does not, in fact, confer them with a second string to match any other rival county.

"We haven't even got remotely a second team that could go out and compete with anybody else -- it's nonsensical to say that we have," Cody insisted. "We have, hopefully, the ability to bring in a couple of players that could bed into a strong, experienced team." Asked, then, what it must be like for Cork last spring or Limerick now to replace virtually an entire panel, he replied: "It's extremely difficult -- it's not possible to do it."