Friday 13 December 2019

Breheny: Turning up the heat on Limerick's bosses now just bizarre

Dumping on management won't do anything to improve Treaty's fortunes in championship

Limerick joint managers Donal O'Grady, left, and TJ Ryan in conversation after defeat to Galway
Limerick joint managers Donal O'Grady, left, and TJ Ryan in conversation after defeat to Galway
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It conjures up an interesting image: Limerick's joint-managers, Donal O'Grady and TJ Ryan sat in front of the county board's top trio, listening to home truths, trenchantly stated.

Limerick club delegates were informed about the meeting between the team management and Oliver Mann (county chairman), Mike O'Riordan (secretary) and Donal Morrissey (treasurer), where the message to O'Grady and Ryan came with no sugar coating.

Indeed, judging by the account offered by O'Riordan and Mann, the tone was more applicable to the exchanges between the owners of a big-time professional soccer club and the team management at a time of crisis than to a county hurling set-up.

The Limerick bosses conveyed their unease and the supporters' unhappiness to O'Grady and Ryan after an Allianz League campaign where a great chance of promotion to Division 1A was blown before capitulating meekly against Galway in the quarter-final.

Limerick had a fair wind in their promotion sails when leading 1B on scoring difference after Round 3, with games against Offaly and Laois remaining. Two wins, which should have been well within the Munster champions' range, would have seen them into 1A ahead of Cork, but Limerick slipped up against Offaly, conceding 1-1 in the final few minutes to end level.

It was enough to allow Cork in front of them. Bye-bye promotion.

Limerick still had a chance of advancing in the league when they hosted Galway in the quarter-final, only to lose by eight points on a day when the margin of defeat flattered their performance.

A post-league/pre-championship debriefing between management and the county board would have been expected, but the surprising element came in the report of the meeting, which showed the board leadership in gung-ho mood, laying down the law to O'Grady and Ryan, who must have felt like errant children.

"They basically apologised for the performance against Offaly, in particular – they put their hands up," said O'Riordan.

He was "as disgusted as everyone else" and also explained that he saw at first hand the "fire coming out of their eyes" as Limerick supporters vented their disappointment following the defeat by Galway. They were also "full of venom" after paying €20 to see an "abysmal" performance.

Mann urged everyone "to support the team and management because we don't have any other choice." What if they had? He didn't elaborate.

He also explained that the management knew exactly how the county felt.

"Having spoken to them, they are very much aware of the way the GAA public in Limerick feel and they are also aware that the management of the county board was not happy with the performance during the league. They were left in no doubt about that," said Mann.

Some pretty tough language then, as Limerick begin the countdown to the Munster semi-final clash with Tipperary in Thurles on June 1.

It made very interesting reading, but here's the intriguing question: why the public revelations of what appeared very much like a dressing down for O'Grady and Ryan?

Dumping on management may have suited the prevailing mood in the county, but it won't do anything to improve the situation for the important weeks ahead.

As a Limerick man, Ryan might be expected to gulp down the medicine without complaint, but O'Grady is different.


Apart from being an outsider, he is a proven manager at the highest level, with an All-Ireland title on his CV. He was also the man Limerick looked to when trying to recover from the disastrous 2010 season when conflict between players and management left them with a largely second-string squad.

O'Grady's return following John Allen's departure last autumn surprised many people on the basis that since Limerick had won the Munster title for the first time since 1996, nothing less than an All-Ireland success would be seen as progress.

Limerick's expectation bar had been raised, even if many outsiders had doubts as to whether the squad was good enough to clear it.

The process, which ultimately opted for the O'Grady-Ryan joint-manager model, took over nine weeks to complete and now, just five months after their appointments, the pair are under intense pressure. Reports of the meeting with the county board officers have further increased it.

"I left Rathkeale (after the meeting) happy that they (team management) are going to make every effort to turn things around," Mann said.

As O'Grady returned home to Cork, pondering on how "to turn things around," the thought of not turning his car in the Limerick direction again must surely have crossed his mind. It would have been a perfectly understandable reaction to a bizarre sequence of events.

Scoring Surge keeping punters happy

A total of 19 points usually wins more football games than it loses, but Cork (2-13) and Mayo (1-16) were the latest to discover that, in a season of scoring inflation, large deposits no longer carry a guarantee of wealth.

Derry (2-15) and Dublin (2-20) cleaned out their rivals' nest eggs with second-half heists last Sunday, thus maintaining the high-scoring trend which has been a feature of this season.

Remarkably, a total of 19 points wasn't enough to win 14 games in the Allianz League, eight in Division 1.

There were 31 games when 17 points, also a decent total, did not deliver a victory.

Whether the scoring surge has been influenced by the introduction of the 'black card' or a more creative tactical approach – or perhaps even a combination of the two – is difficult to say, but, whatever the origin, it has made for high-class entertainment.

Now, the big question is whether the mousetrap manufacturers will come up with a more sophisticated design to catch the attacking mice in the championship.

Hopefully, their grim pursuit will fail.

Illegible jersey numbers just not good enough

Once more into the breach then, on behalf of the admission-paying public who continue to be cheated by illegible numbering on jerseys.

Derry (they are by no means alone) were the latest culprits, with their black numbers on a red band making them difficult to see in Croke Park on Sunday.

Given the size of Croke Park and the distance many spectators are from the action, the need for clearer numbering is greater there than at smaller venues – but then it shouldn't be a problem anywhere.

Jerseys with more than one colour should be designed so that the numbering area is on a clear background.

There are lots of match regulations, which, if breached, lead to fines. Yet, something as simple as insisting on easily read numbers is not included.

It's truly baffling and simply not good enough.

Perhaps the arrival of the Sky cameras will prompt those responsible to make the numbers on jerseys easy to see.

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