Limerick Leader GAA Correspondent Jerome O’Connell gives the backround on Ciaran Carey’s decision to resign as Limerick hurling selector.
BEFORE Limerick travelled to play Wexford in mid-March Ciaran Carey was considering his position as a selector with the Limerick hurlers.
Limerick had failed miserably to Clare in the opening round of the league and had just stuttered past Laois.
Carey expressed concerns to acquaintances about the poor physical preparation of the team under the guidance of John Allen and Donach O’Donnell.
Carey has stated that these concerns were voiced to his fellow members of management. Publicly he held his counsel and speaking in advance of the league final against Clare, he spoke of how preparations had improved.
However, as the weeks passed it appears that Carey’s enjoyment was diminishing.
There was also some disharmony in Donal O’Grady’s backroom team last season with Carey in particular disagreeing with some selection choices. But he remained onboard.
Indications then pointed towards Carey stepping into the management role after O’Grady’s departure but the Independent Appointments Committee of Damien Quigley, Paudie Fitzmaurice and Jim Woulfe, opted for John Allen.
Carey wasn’t happy. It was the second time that he was overlooked for the job after being among those nominated when O’Grady got the job the previous year.
Indeed back in 2007 he was interviewed for the role of Limerick U-21 manager but instead Declan Fitzgerald was selected. Twelve months later, Carey agreed to put his hat into the ring to replace the departed Fitzgerald and he made the move from camogie management to the U-21 job.
Last October Carey found himself in a similar position.
Again overlooked for the senior job, he was asked to stay on board as a selector to offer continuity to the new management team. It wasn’t a straight forward decision for Carey and after initially indicating that he wouldn’t stay involved, he eventually committed to the role after much consideration.
Indeed Carey was much more visible than the other selectors John Kiely and Eamon Meskell on match days this season - donning the Maor Foirne bib and walking the sideline, distributing instructions to the players.
But since the league final loss to Clare, Carey’s involvement has been limited.
Last Friday Carey met Allen to tell him he was stepping down. Carey then rang Limerick GAA secretary Mike O’Riordan and Limerick hurling captain David Breen to inform both of his decision to withdraw from the Limerick camp.
On Saturday morning, the man who captained Limerick to the 1996 All-Ireland final, rang Limerick Leader columnist and RTE correspondent Martin Kiely. Carey wanted to get across his message and he met Kiely on Saturday evening.
Late on Saturday night, RTE carried the story that Carey had resigned and then on Sunday morning the Sunday Independent article outlined Carey’s side of the story - laying the blame for his decision firmly at the feet of unhappiness over team preparation.
On Sunday afternoon all attention was on Cappamore.
It should have been a run of the mill challenge game to mark the official opening of the new club facilities but instead the name of Ciaran Carey was on everyone’s lips.
Just as he had done for many of the last two decades in the colours of Limerick, the hurling public were left enthralled by Carey’s actions.
For many of the Limerick players the first they learned of Carey’s departure was on Sunday morning.
Ahead of start of the challenge game, Allen confirmed the departure to the players in the dressing room and stressed that only he would speak publicly on the matter. Any players we contacted since have declined to comment.
After the game, Allen spoke to the media present but his message was very different to Carey’s.
“Ciaran has decided that he cannot give the time commitment that is necessary at this level,” Allen outlined.
“He missed a full week of training the week before last and he wasn’t there last Thursday night and had to go early on Tuesday and he believes that because he can’t give the full commitment he shouldn’t be there.”
Allen continued: “I recognise that Ciaran is an icon in Limerick hurling and that he is very committed to Limerick hurling and always has been but I respect his decision that if he cannot give 100% he feels he should not be part of the management setup. I wish him well and I’m sure he’ll be back again at some stage on the sideline with Limerick.”
This was very different to the reason outlined by Carey in the initial interview with Kiely but he has since been uncontactable and hasn’t returned our calls.
“I’m not going to get into any controversy,” added Allen in Cappamore. “I’m taking it at face value that he doesn’t have the time. There has been no drama, there has been no dressing room bust up or sideline bust up or ill feeling as far as I am concerned.”
But what of the team’s preparation, the issue Carey has been so strong on?
“I am happy enough that we are in a good place,” said Allen.
“Training is going very well - fellas are fighting to stay on the panel and fellas are fighting to get on the team,” he explained.
“We are in the middle of fairly serious training over the past few weeks so players are tired and you could see that with some elementary mistakes,” he said of the win over Dublin. Limerick play their final challenge game this Saturday when they travel to Athenry to play Galway.
On Tuesday night the executive officers of Limerick GAA held their usual meeting and the shock announcement was the main topic of discussion.
Limerick GAA chairman Liam Lenihan afterwards confirmed that Carey won’t be replaced in the management team with John Allen to continue to work with coach Donach O’Donnell and selectors John Kiely and Eamonn Meskell.
“I would like to thank Ciaran for all that he has done for Limerick hurling on and off the field. He is an icon and the best player we have had since Eamonn Cregan,” said the chairman.
He continued: “He was manager of the U-21s and with the seniors for the last two years and made a great contribution”.
But what of the future for Carey?
“The door is always open in the future,” said Lenihan, who ends his five year term as chairman in December.
“John Allen has made a statement and I dont have anything else to add.”
As for Carey, this latest controversy doesn’t diminish his status as one of the best players to ever have played for Limerick.
Back in the Autumn of 2009 as part of its 125 year celebrations Limerick GAA set about honouring its hurling team of the previous 25 years.
The general public were asked to select players for the varying positions from a short-list. There were hundreds of responses but every single nomination slip was unanimous in the choice of centre back.
Such is the esteem that three time All-Star Ciaran Carey is held within Limerick hurling that he was the selection of 100% of the responses and on the back of that was named as the Limerick hurler of the last 25 years.
So when an ‘icon’ like Carey speaks aloud on matters Limerick hurling, everyone sits up and takes notice.
Ultimately, it will be the end of the season before the merits of Carey’s fears regarding training can be measured but whether proved right or wrong his stature within Limerick hurling will never dwindle.
He has had big public support this week but with a Munster championship game against Tipperary just over three weeks away, Limerick supporters will be hoping that the county can put this latest controversy behind them. Fast.