Martin Kiely Column - Time to put away the cups

In his weekly Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely reckons that Limerick must use the current success to build for the future.

In his weekly Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely reckons that Limerick must use the current success to build for the future.

The last few weeks have been pretty unbelievable for Limerick GAA.

For so long they struggled to compete with the major powers in hurling and then, in the space of a few short weeks, the landscape has changed and we are enjoying major successes in both minor and senior.

Such success was long overdue and it’s the hope of all that such a barren spell will not visit our county again for many years to come. So many managers and so many players have passed through since success was last tasted and for that reason it’s easy to understand people’s emotions.

Winning changes everything but it can also dim the vision and future successes might well take as long unless cool heads, leadership and hard work are shown in many areas within Limerick GAA. Long time supporters will know the heartbreaks of the past, they will have witnessed the times where many Limerick teams showed great promise but sadly they failed to make the major breakthrough.

It has taken so long to get to where we are now but I remind people that this journey is only beginning and it will take huge work now and in the years ahead to build and retain a base whereby we are serious contenders for All Irelands.

Limerick GAA has had many false dawns and we pinned hopes on many players and teams but all too often the dreams and aspirations melted like the winter snow. Limerick has always produced some great players and I don’t see that changing anytime soon but experience has taught us that often when we won in the past those in charge showed very poor judgement and leadership.

Spend some time with Eamon Cregan and discuss Limerick hurling over the past 40 years and he will give a huge insight into where major mistakes were made in the past. I have said before that as a county we don’t cope too well with success - that can be explained by the fact that we don’t enjoy enough of it to really know how to handle it.

Lessons of the past can draw the road map for the future and Limerick County Board now have a real chance to really build on the recent success and by doing so lay a template for future successes. Now is the time to plan, of course some great work is being done but more can be done and the once strong clubs of the past now need help and how resources are applied could well decide their long term survival.

Feile na nGael was a huge success in Limerick and it gave all clubs a major lift but it might surprise many to know that between this Feile and the Feile hosted in 1995 15 less clubs took part.

Change is taking place and the current state of the economy has and will continue to have long lasting effects on rural Ireland. Limerick GAA needs to be ahead of the curve and plan for the change. The future can be very good but only if the people at the top lead and plan for the future.

Winning the Munster minor hurling title in Thurles last week was a major step forward for Limerick but that has come as a result of huge work from so many people. Many of these players would have travelled to Rathkeale since they were U-14. Their parents showed huge commitment and I took huge joy in seeing so many of them shed tears of joy on the pitch in Thurles.

Every mile they drove and sacrifices made were worthwhile. The parents behind the players must never be forgotten, they would have bought the first hurley, repaired the broken window and given words of encouragement to practice. These players would have encountered many coaches over the years and all can share in this victory.

I think of men like Brother James Dormer from Doon who have given such service to the GAA. It was a very proud night for the Doon club who had five players, Bro Dormer through National School would have seen them come in as small lads, his passion and love of gaelic games would have infected them from an early age and he can take great pride in this win.

The same can be said for people in many clubs but clubs like Na Piarsaigh, Monaleen and Ahane saw their efforts at underage rewarded as many of their players also made telling contributions. Underage coaches are heroes in my eyes and are the bedrock of the GAA.

They are sometimes forgotten but in reality they are the people who hand over the gospel of hurling and pride in our native place.

Joe McKenna and Eibhear O’Dea have played a significant part in the development of the underage policy in Limerick over the past five years and it has not been easy.

It has taken them a long time to develop talent both on the field and on the line but their plan is working and must be further strengthened for the future. The power struggle must end and their plan is the only way forward.

The road ahead looks brighter but it will require great maturity from all concerned if we are to reach our goals. The journey is only starting, it’s about building a culture of winning and an appreciation of the sacrifices required to become great.

Limerick is on the right road now but how we manoeuvre the bends ahead could decide our journey’s end.

Time to put away the cups.