EMBATTLED Limerick boss Justin McCarthy says he hasn't given up hope of reconciliation with the players who have blankly refused to play under him this year.
McCarthy watched his young charges go down to Galway by 1-18 to 1-11 in Kilmallock yesterday but said afterwards that he would welcome the opportunity for dialogue with the bulk of the 2009 squad who are not currently making themselves available.
"It would be great if everyone said, 'Let's get back hurling for Limerick'. It It would be great to sit down and have a chat about anything that might be relevant. But if not, we will keep going with the players that he have here at the moment," he said.
However, McCarthy ruled out the possibility of his own resignation in a bid to end the stand-off. "I was picked for a two-year period and I gave my commitment for that time," he stated.
Speaking on the subject of the players currently at his disposal who actually led Galway by 1-7 to 0-9 at half-time despite their inexperience at intercounty level, McCarthy expressed his satisfaction with their development.
"They have to learn some time," he noted. "Limerick have to look to the future. It's not going to be an overnight success but those players won't be beaten out the gate by any team."
Galway's late rally ensured a youthful Limerick were denied a shock win. Substitute Iarla Tannian grabbed a 54th-minute goal and further points from substitute Niall Healy and free-taker Ger Farragher saw a heavily-fancied Galway prevail.
Alan O'Connor struck five points as Limerick battled to a 1-7 to 0-9 half-time lead, with Cathal Mullane scoring a 13th minute goal. But Paudie McNamara missed a second half penalty and Galway took control, outscoring the hosts by 1-9 to 0-4.
Rebels too strong for Offaly
Cork opened their campaign with a satisfying 1-22 to 1-11 win against Offaly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh .
Denis Walsh's men pushed clear in the second half, with Pat Horgan (0-9), John Gardiner (0-5) and new captain Kieran Murphy from Sarsfields (0-4) leading the way.
The sides were level six times in the opening half, with three late frees from Offaly's scorer-in-chief Shane Dooley making it 0-9 apiece.
Dooley and Aisake Ó hAilpín swapped goals in the second period but Cork proved too strong.
Offaly's nine-point interval tally also included efforts from Cathal Parlon and Conor Mahon, who sustained a head injury but was able to continue.
Cork boss Walsh kept his players in the dressing room for a few extra minutes at half-time and they kicked on when the match resumed, moving 0-15 to 0-10 clear by the 51st minute.
Dual player Eoin Cadogan was introduced for David Cunningham at full-back, and the Rebels pressed on in attack with scores from Horgan, debutant Mark O'Sullivan and McCarthy again.
Free-taker Dooley hit his seventh point for Offaly and a 57th minute goal off the ground from the Tullamore youngster, following a poor clearance by Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack, got his side back in touch at 0-15 to 1-10.
But any hopes of a comeback win were quickly dashed when Aisake Ó hAilpín managed to hook the ball past goalkeeper Eoin Kelly for the hosts' only goal. With the result beyond doubt, Cork hit overdrive in the closing 10 minutes. Horgan and Murphy added to their tallies and former footballer Michael Cussen, who made his NHL debut as a late substitute, also split the posts.
Flaherty leads Clare charge
Clare saw off the challenge of Down at Cusack Park by a scoreline of 2-20 to 0-6. Clare had control of the tie from the off, leading 1-13 to 0-4 at half time. Mark Flaherty was the scorer in chief for Clare, ending the game with 2-10.
Wexford were too strong for Westmeath in their clash at Cusack Park. The Yellowbellies won out on a scoreline of 1-20 to 0-14. Wexford were ahead by 0-13 to 0-6 at the break. The Wexford goal came from substitute Jim Berry.
Antrim and Carlow played out a thriller in their clash in Casement Park. Antrim sneaked the tie 1-11 to 2-7. The Saffrons were ahead by two points at half-time on a score of 1-6 to 1-4.
Martin Scullion bagged the Antrim goal after 13 minutes. Craig Doyle was on target with the first Carlow goal just before half time.
Paudie Keogh chipped in with the second Carlow goal after the break. Keogh had an excellent game all round and he finished with 1-3 beside his name.
Laois v Kildare was called off due to a frozen pitch at Portlaoise.