Clarke steps into Limerick breach
FORMER Limerick All Star defender Davy Clarke is about to join the county hurling management as a replacement for Donal O'Grady.
TJ Ryan, who has taken sole charge since his co-manager stepped down after a row with the county's top brass, initially said he would not replace O'Grady and that he and selector Paul Beary would share the coaching duties. But Clarke, who was the county's U-21 coach nine years ago, is about to join his back room now as another selector.
His appointment is expected to be ratified at a county board meeting next Tuesday, just three weeks before the Munster champions open their title defence against Tipperary on June 1.
Even as news of his imminent appointment broke yesterday, Limerick forward Seamus Hickey insisted their players have not been affected by the controversy and certainly won't use it as an excuse if they lose.
"Absolutely not," Hickey said. "You can't have any excuses against Tipp. You can't use Division 1B, you can't use any of the other things that are floating around, championship is championship."
He said to lose O'Grady was "disappointing because we all have a huge admiration for him.
"But, from a player's perspective, and I'm not being flippant about it, it doesn't matter that much when you've a set-up that's got very strong people in it anyway and was coached that way under the previous regime; to be very strong in who we are and to drive it internally.
"I don't think it affects us a whole pile," he said. "It is disappointing to have a distraction, but that's what it is. It is nothing to do with the players. It can't affect us in that sense, so we didn't let it."
"We're a tight group anyway. TJ is a man we all have a lot of respect for, a familiar voice who we're comfortable with and he's a very positive guy. We're very happy with who we have, so we just drive on."
Hickey pointed out that they bounced back to beat Tipp last year after being pipped by Dublin in the Division 1B league final.
But he did reveal the painstaking rebuilding process he has had to undergo to recover from the torn cruciate he suffered just 12 minutes into last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Clare.
He has returned earlier than expected, playing in a recent challenge game against Cork and getting 60 minutes of championship action in with his club Murroe-Boher last week.
"I spend nearly more time maybe rehabbing my injury than on my PHD these days!" he quipped. "It's like a club you become a part of. You talk to a fella and it's 'ah, you got it done as well.'
"You have to be driven to go to the gym at 7.0 before work to do single leg squats when there isn't a sinner there, but I'm not the only one who's done it and I wouldn't have done it if I didn't love it," he stressed.
Hickey deliberately returned to county training in January, doing his own work on the sideline.
"To parachute back into the panel around championship time was something I didn't want to do," he explained. "So I was involved the whole time while the league was progressing, just to be there for the camaraderie.
"With modern medicine, it's actually not a big deal, whereas a couple of years ago it (a cruciate injury) was career-threatening. But I do have a new-found appreciation and admiration for people who work their way back from it, especially Colm O'Neill and what he's been through."
One factor that helped Limerick last year was that both of their games in Munster were in the Gaelic Grounds and their title defence now begins in Thurles, but Hickey said the venue is irrelevant.
"It's not as if we are going into an alien environment. We've all played in Thurles dozens of times, so it won't affect us."