Ciaran Carey asked me to make public his resignation last weekend – but in doing so he stressed that he would still like to manage Limerick in the future
The clouds had been gathering for some time and those with their ears to the ground would have known that all was far from well within the Limerick senior hurling setup.
Almost from day one the signals suggested that the training of the team could lead to problems down the road and while it has taken longer than was thought, the first major crack appeared with the news last weekend that selector Ciaran Carey has called time on his involvement with Limerick. Making such a decision only a few weeks out from championship must not have been easy for Carey but it showed the honesty of the man because another might well have been happy to go through the motions. Indeed when I met Ciaran on Saturday evening, he used the word ‘honesty’ on many occasions.
“I needed to be honest to myself but, more importantly, I needed to be honest to the players,” he said. “Honesty should be at the core of any intercounty setup and it would be wrong to stay in a system that I clearly had concerns about.”
It was a brave call to make because very few would have had the steel to make such a decision so close to the opening game of the championship with Tipperary. Making such a decision could have long term consequences for Ciaran Carey because it could come against him if he should ever think of managing Limerick in the future.
“I still harbour the ambition to manage Limerick because to me that would be a great honour,” he added. “I had the pleasure of playing for Limerick and I know the ups and downs and the pressures of that more than most.
“I have no control over what other people will do but I did what I felt was the right thing. I missed two nights training one week and the management knew the reason why, I missed last Thursday night week because I had decided to go. I contacted John Allen on his way home from training and outlined the reasons for going. I contacted the County Secretary last Friday morning and I contacted a member of the senior hurling panel early Saturday morning because I felt this was the right way to do my business”.
“I had issues at how the team were physically prepared and that trend has been there for a while now. We faded badly in the second half against Clare and that should never have happened. We were eight points up and in control but when Clare moved up a gear we were unable to follow and that should not be the case at this level. “
Readers will be aware that last January I first raised concerns in this page having at that stage gone to see all of the major teams training and it was clear that Limerick were so far off the pace even then. Privately some of the players were beginning to raise concerns. They thought things might improve but that was not to happen anytime soon. A year previously Jerry Wallace had taken them to new heights and they liked that but now, as one player put it to me, the sessions had become very similar to club training.
Signs of poor fitness levels were very evident in the National League but in the final against Clare it was clear for all to see just how far Limerick were off the pace because when Clare pulled the throttle Limerick were left behind.
Ciaran Carey voiced his concerns to management and also to certain members of the County Board. A senior member of the team had a third party speak on his behalf to a senior member of the County Board and also, I hear, two players made contact with the County Board Secretary.
The easy thing to suggest here is that Carey made a rash decision and walked but it’s much bigger than that and the County Board members who knew what was going on did nothing about it. Indeed Carey’s decision to go has caused a major split in the County Board because, despite the County Secretary knowing since last Friday, he thought the matter would be best kept to himself and did not inform his fellow officers. I met a few members of the County Board and they were less than happy about that.
Intercounty players now have to reach a very high level of fitness to survive at the highest level and it’s no secret that filling the role of team trainer is viewed by many as the key appointment that needs to be got right.
Donagh O’Donnell is the man training the Limerick team and I doubt most people in Limerick would have heard about him until he took up this role. He was with Adare for a very short spell and he was also with Clonoulty Rossmore for a short spell.
I don’t know him and I am sure he has many fine qualities but his CV lacked the experience required at this level. Did the former manager Donal O’Grady play a role in his appointment? What part did the Three-Man Committee play? It appears they just rubber stamped what was put in front of them. The County Board abdicated their responsibility and the clubs in Limerick have lost their say.
The big losers here have been the players. Limerick are just three or so weeks away from their meeting with Tipperary and they will need to be right for that game. We all hope that Limerick will be able to go to Thurles and compete and match Tipperary for every puck of the ball but the evidence to date suggests that they may be under some pressure. They plan to play Galway and have a couple of in house games and that should give them a clear view of their starting 15.
Supporters of Limerick hurling will have many fond memories of Ciaran Carey hurling. He was a free sprit blessed with skill and pace. Most of the current crop would have grown up watching him produce magic on the field. As one player put it to me on Monday of this week, “He has the knack of knowing what you are thinking and was outstanding in giving support to the younger players. He has a super passion for Limerick hurling and we will miss him from the dressing room”.
Very few people will disagree with Carey because they saw for themselves how the team faded and it appears that Clare game was the straw that led to Carey calling time on his involvement.
He had raised concerns at management level and also with certain members of the County Board but it fell on deaf ears. Seven weeks ago one of the most senior members of the County Board told me how a player had got a third party to contact him and he was very concerned at how the team was training.
Sadly that Board officer did nothing about it and his failure to act gives further insight into how some members of the County Board do their business.
It proves one thing, that they have learned very few lessons from the past and losing a mentor with the passion and experience of Ciaran Carey could have been avoided.
For the best part Limerick have trained two nights a week and that is not in keeping with what other teams are doing. They started a weights programme towards the end of last year but it was not monitored and many players lost faith in it.
Many of the players were more than surprised a couple of weeks ago to hear that they were starting a new programme on weights and this is very strange just a few weeks away from championship.
It takes some time to gain the benefits of weights and it appears the training of the Limerick team is made up as they go along.
Limerick have a few vital weeks now to focus on the Tipperary game and we all hope they can produce the biggest upset in hurling for some time when they meet the Premier County.
The sad thing is is that they must do it without Carey, a man that has so much to offer.