Treaty exiles set to break their silence
LIMERICK'S exiled hurlers are expected to finally break their silence today by issuing a statement which is expected to stoke up the controversy ahead of tonight's county board meeting.
Those players who were either dropped by manager Justin McCarthy or left the panel since in protest, met collectively for the first time last Sunday and composed a joint statement about the debacle that has split hurling fans in the Treaty County.
Their statement had been expected to be released late last night but it was delayed while they sought legal advice and it is now expected today.
Until now, those who have defected from McCarthy's squad, apart from former captain Damien Reale, have maintained a strict silence while the controversy has raged all around them.
Some reasoned that they had taken their actions independently, were not acting as a group and did not want to escalate the dispute further by speaking out collectively.
But something has changed their minds -- possibly comments made by McCarthy when he gave his first interview on the matter to RTE last Wednesday -- and they now appear to have been galvanised and are set to give their version of events.
January's county board meeting last Tuesday had to be postponed because of the weather and this has been reconvened in the Claughaun club tonight.
The only official item on tonight's agenda is the ratification of a new selector -- Patrickswell's John Tuohy -- to join McCarthy's backroom team.
Even if a players' statement does not emerge beforehand, the controversy surrounding the county senior team is expected to be raised from the floor.
There is growing speculation that a vote of 'no confidence' may even be proposed in McCarthy or the board's top officials for their handling of the issue.
The genesis of the row was the manner in which McCarthy dropped a dozen players when he reassembled a panel last winter, especially his inference that they had been undisciplined.
That prompted another 12 to subsequently defect, leaving him facing into the National League with a completely new-look panel, containing just six of last year's squad.
Yet last week McCarthy insisted he would not step down and said his door is still open to those who defected, while accusing them of ignoring repeated approaches.
"We have tried to discuss things with them and they wouldn't answer our calls. They won't come face to face and discuss anything and that's a pity," McCarthy said.
A day later, incoming selector Tuohy extended an olive branch to the players while speaking on local radio station Live 95FM.
"Through dialogue and discussion we can tease out a solution," Tuohy said. "I would make a plea to the players to sit down and discuss any issues with management."
McCarthy's new-look squad had their first outing last weekend.
With just two of last year's panel starting, they drew (0-18 apiece) with Wexford in a challenge match in Mallow.
Their first official game of the season, a Waterford Crystal Cup quarter-final against UCC, takes place next Sunday in Kilmallock.
McCarthy has denied that communication is at the heart of the dispute and last week accused some players of trying to oust him before this winter's discontent.
"It's not communication -- that was a good excuse," McCarthy said. "As far back as August some of the players were trying to get rid of us -- they didn't want us on board because they had their own agenda."
Tonight's county board meeting will be prefaced by one outstanding matter from county convention (the election of a county Development Officer), but once the full board meeting starts, sparks are expected to fly.
And, if as expected, the players intervene with their statement beforehand, that will only escalate the mood of some delegates.
When county officials proposed a 'vote of confidence' in McCarthy last month, he survived on a 70-54 secret ballot which, allowing for top-table votes, indicated that the margin was narrow.