McCarthy and Foley send out signals to end players' boycott
CONFUSING signals emerged from Limerick hurling last night, including hopes of a thaw in the big freeze.
Pick up the phone and call, you never know what you might hear -- that seemed to be the message from Mark Foley to Justin McCarthy.
And, in a clear attempt to coax the 2009 panel on board once again, the embattled manager said they would be very welcome back in the fold.
"I am available at any time to sit down and discuss issues. I am extending the hand of friendship. Anything said or done would be put behind us. We wouldn't bear a grudge and we would love to see them rethink," McCarthy said in an interview with the 'Limerick Leader'.
"A vote was taken (at Tuesday night's county board meeting) and the delegates made their decision but, from my point of view, I do not see it as a success.
"My only aim is to breach the gap and bring people back on board. We have a very young squad and it would be great to have the older players change their minds.
"Let's work together. We wouldn't bear a grudge and we would love to see them rethink, individually or as a group, and work on getting Limerick hurling going forward," he said.
Comments by Foley, Limerick's longest-serving player, seemed to suggest that compromise was possible if McCarthy contacted the 2009 players.
"I would hope they would be positive. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the initial cull was made but, at this stage, I think the least that any player deserves is a little bit of respect, especially players who have given a lot of service. I'd like to think the players would take it (a phone call) in good faith," said Foley.
Limerick secretary Mike O'Riordan said that he believed the management would engage with the players if they thought it would serve any purpose.
"I would feel the management would sit down and talk to them and obviously put up their hands and apologise if apologies are necessary," he said.
However, speaking on RTE, Damien Reale suggested that the divide may be too big to cross after all that has gone on. "I couldn't imagine myself going back this year under the current management," he said. "I'm very hurt and upset and, after all the years service I've given Limerick hurling, it's disappointing that it has ended up like this.
"It could have been sorted out a long time ago. A lot of people had their names dragged through the mud, players who had given a lot of service.
"There is a big divide between the county board and the '09 panel which has been added to. The barrier is probably too big to get through."
For all that, Foley's remarks suggest that there may still be a glimmer of hope and clearly McCarthy is anxious to end a stand-off which is threatening to destroy Limerick's entire season.
"We are now in the spring and the winter of discontent, weather-wise and otherwise, is behind us. Careers are short and the opportunity to play for your county should be of the utmost importance for every hurler," he said.
Meanwhile, players who attempt to con referees into awarding frees will be punished in a clampdown on what is a growing trend, in Gaelic football in particular.
Michael Curley, chairman of the National Referees' Committee, said that referees were aware of the problem and would act accordingly.
Curley said referees were tuned in to the increase in that type of foul and claims that, in most cases, the free is given to the aggrieved party.
"Pulling a player's arm down and going to ground is on the increase and fellas are being pulled for it, very often much to the displeasure of the public who think the free should go the other way.
"Our referees are well aware of what's happening. They are closer to the action than anybody," said Curley.