Limerick's silence is the easy way out
Board can't afford to ignore their biggest crisis, writes Martin Breheny
IN the unlikely event that Limerick people have forgotten, let's remind them of the state of play. Limerick have won only one All-Ireland senior hurling title in 69 years; their last Munster title success was in 1996, their last National League win came in 1997.
For reasons which had more to do with good luck (in the draw) than good performances they reached last year's All-Ireland semi-final where they were publicly humiliated by Tipperary in Croke Park.
Five months on, none of their best-known and most experienced players are on the panel. Some were dropped by manager Justin McCarthy, while others withdrew in protest at the manner in which the culling had been carried out.
Limerick are due to play UCC in the Waterford Crystal tournament on Sunday and, four weeks later, the far more important business of National League action begins when they host Galway at the Gaelic Grounds. As things stand, Limerick will be represented by a second-string squad.
The 2009 squad issued a lengthy statement late on Monday night in which they vigorously defended their position and laid serious charges outside various doors. It certainly wasn't crafted with compromise in mind.
Among the phrases used were: no feedback from the County Board; malicious lies; false claims; failure to extend common courtesy; poorly handled by County Board; false information and rumours; intimidating calls from members of the management and backroom staff putting pressure on players to join the 2010 panel.
They also claimed that junior and intermediate clubs were canvassed by members of the management and County Board to vote for McCarthy's retention as manager.
It was pretty serious stuff which, at the very least, needed to be addressed at the next County Board meeting. As luck would have it, the Board was due to meet less than 24 hours after the statement was issued. Not only that but it was to be preceded by a special convention, called to elect a development officer.
This was the ideal opportunity for a genuine debate on the row that's threatening to leave Limerick senior hurling in utter chaos this year. Silence may be golden but not when such a serious problem is overshadowing everything that Limerick are about.
Instead, the meeting dealt with such basic issues as club amalgamations, more games for club players and also formed a view that the inter-provincial series should be continued, although unless there's a resolution of the row it's unlikely many Limerick players will wear the Munster jersey this season.
There was some discussion on senior hurling but only to ratify John Tuohy as a selector. Surely that was an ideal time to address the rather important issue of who the new selector -- and indeed the rest of the management team -- could call on to play for Limerick this year. Not relevant, it seems. Instead Tuohy was approved and the discussion then turned to criticising an article on the Limerick row by a local journalist.
It seems quite extraordinary that delegates didn't demand a debate on what is now a full-blown crisis. It's not as if they haven't seen what happens in this type of situation.
Cork went into last year's National League with a second-string team and the backing of the County Board for Gerald McCarthy to continue as manager, but as the heavy defeats began to pile up, the mood changed dramatically.
Board delegates came under pressure from club members to do whatever it took to get the top players back in action. McCarthy eventually resigned and was replaced by Denis Walsh but only after a period of huge trauma for all concerned, including McCarthy, who found himself in a lonely, isolated position.
A year on and Limerick are powering towards a similar cul-de-sac, even if the origin of the dispute is slightly different. Clearly, the official position of the County Board is to back McCarthy and hope that somehow his second-string team can be sufficiently competitive to appease public concern and perhaps even lead to a thaw in the defiant stance by the 2009 panel.
It's a forlorn hope. No county's resources -- and certainly not Limerick's -- extend to being able to compete at top level without any of the players who have established themselves over several years.
The Limerick County Board took the easy way out on Tuesday night when they chose to ignore one of the biggest problems they have ever encountered. It might have made for a comfortable night but it merely delayed the inevitable because sooner or later they will have to wake up the large elephant in the corner of the room.
If they delay it until such time as Limerick have been thrashed in a few league games, he will be one mighty grumpy beast indeed. So much so that he may wreck not only the room but also Limerick's prospects of salvaging anything from 2010.