Martin Kiely Column - Limerick must drive on while the going is good

Harty Cup report
In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kielly suggest that Limerick hurling needs to make the most of its current high standing.

In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kielly suggest that Limerick hurling needs to make the most of its current high standing.

The last few months have been a rollercoaster for Limerick GAA and it’s set to continue for a while longer with the minor hurlers in the All Ireland final against Kilkenny.

A stir was created at the start of summer when Donal O’ Grady walked away but it’s fair to say things have finished better than most people would have hoped for. The emotions were high around the county when Limerick pushed Kilkenny to the wire but time and experience has taught us that such emotion quickly fades away.

TJ Ryan will know that others before him have been handed terms by the County Board but many failed to see them out. Those slapping him on the back will be the very ones pulling the pin on him should he fail to deliver according to their expectations.

The hurling championship has been a bit crazy this year and the form guide has meant very little. I personally think the standards have dropped back and opportunity now exists for a breakthrough for teams like Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Dublin. Limerick have got to the last four over the past couple of years and the more we can do that then the greater chance of making real progress in the near future.

I got a huge reaction from readers last week when I wrote about the politics of Limerick GAA and how certain people will do whatever they can to have some lads sitting on the bench.

I would hope that TJ Ryan will make a real go of it and that success will come his way but unless he makes the hard choices his reward will be no better than those that have gone before him.

Limerick did come close to beating Kilkenny but we still lost. New players will have to be found and I feel at least two players are needed in defence and two more in the forwards. The bench is not strong enough and this will also need to be looked at. Have players on the bench that have something to offer and not lads who have no hope of making a contribution. Set standards make lads work for their place on the subs bench.

No one should get a soft hold of a Limerick jersey because for too long that has been the way. The Limerick senior panel needs to be open and not closed off in January as this has proven to be of no benefit to Limerick.

Players need to know that unless they are making progress and working hard they will not find a resting place of comfort on the subs bench. The culture needs to be around what’s best for Limerick hurling. Old ways won’t work anymore.

Limerick lost a great opportunity to play Division 1 hurling next season when they had matters in their own hands against Offaly in this year’s National League. Even at this early stage I think Limerick will win promotion next year and to be honest it needs to happen as the experience of playing the big teams is vital when it comes to the latter stage of the championship.

Limerick has done well at minor level over the past two years and some of these players are going to make it at senior level. Limerick has in the past rushed some players into senior ranks and I do hope that will not be the case with some of these players. Managers will do whatever they think will be of assistance to them but that might not be the best thing for the players long term development. I would have them learning their trade at senior level but timing is vital in the launch of a new player.

One match or one season is no indication for the following year and we in Limerick have a fair idea about this. As a county we have under achieved despite having a good base of players for a long time.

I have studied the top managers in hurling and football over the past twenty years and the one common practice between them has been that they made hard calls. Look at Brian Cody in Kilkenny. He made some really hard and unpopular calls in Kilkenny with players that had served him well. He made the call that they had no more to give. His loyalty was to Kilkenny and not the men involved. Would that happen in Limerick?

The County Board have given TJ Ryan three years to get Limerick over the line, it will be reviewed at the end of each year. I agree with the decision. I think that he needs to strengthen his back room team, he needs to bring on board a hurling coach with experience. Someone that can take develop the team’s ability. I have an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes in this area and it might well come to light in the weeks ahead. I think the lads working with him have done well but I think there needs to be a better balance as far as selectors are concerned. In no way am I questioning the people involved but having more than one person from a club as a selector puts pressure on them and might just cloud their judgement.

The last few years have seen no success at U-21 level for Limerick and management of those teams left a lot to be desired. Limerick needs to follow what Joe McKenna proposed earlier this year and that is to have a development squad system at U-21 level similar to what is happening at minor level in place. McKenna’s plan was turned down by the County Board. Why? This must happen and pretty fast to look after players who come out of minor. Lads from small clubs are losing out and the facts will show many are lost to the game within a year.

It’s time for some vision by a lot of people in Limerick. A time for to set in place plans that will see All Ireland success come at senior level. Set the bar high, have a master plan with targets attached.

The County Board Chairman needs to ask questions of various managements along the way to make sure they are meeting the guideline for success. All too often such questions are asked when teams have exited the championship.

Limerick can and will make real progress but it will take honesty from management teams, players and the County Board. When all three come together then and only then will Limerick GAA reach the promised land at senior level.