In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely talks about the fallout from the decision to appoint Brian Ryan as Limerickâ€™s new minor hurling manager.
The layout of the room suggested something big was about to happen. The top table, situated under the Claughaun crest, had the chairs of the Officer Board neatly positioned and more defined than we have seen previously.
Eighteen rows of chairs stretched across the maple floor and, unlike the last County Board meeting where 37 clubs were missing, it was altogether different this time as some delegates, who had not been at a meeting for some time, had made the journey to the City for what looked like a very important meeting.
The opening part of County Board meetings at this stage carries the same format and there was little different about this meeting. Everyone knew that the reason the crowd had come was because a vote had to be taken on the appointment of the new Limerick minor hurling manager. Brian Ryan was the choice of the five man committe of Joe McKenna, Eibhear Oâ€™Dea, Michael Oâ€™Riordan, Mickey Oâ€™Sullivan and Oliver Mann.
The committe had also interviewed Joe Quaid for the position. The various officers were asked to give their monthly report and Joe Quaid, who dealt with coaching and games, then explained how upset he was not to get the position of manager of the minor team. The matter had been listed to come up later in the meeting.
Joe, who had guided the Limerick U-16 team to All Ireland success on the weekend before last, spoke at some length, just like he had done on both radio stations in Limerick last weekend, and he repeated much of the same and told us how much work had gone into his team over the past three years. He told us that he was very disappointed with the way things were done and also the timing and he went on to say, â€œI felt we deserved a chance to take this team to minorâ€.
Quaid and his management team had been successfule just two days after his interview for the position of manager and 24 hours later he was informed that he had not got the job. It was only normal that he would have been upset and at the meeting of the County Board executive a day later he also lost the vote. The interview committe had offered Joe Quaid a position as selector with Brian Ryan and that either Ray Ryan or Don Flynn would take over as manager of the U-17 team. He refused their offer.
Michael Oâ€™Riordan outlined the process that took place for minor manger and before doing so he mentioned how well the U-17 team had done. Sitting to his right Joe Quaid smiled and shook his head. Riordan gave the full details of the various meetings and told the meeting that Brian Ryan was the unanimous choice of the five-man committe. The Secretary confirmed that the choice of the committee was Brian Ryan as manager with Eamonn Cregan as selector, Jerry Wallace as coach and another selector would be added. The Chairman, Liam Lenihan, then put the motion to the floor but Sean Murnane put forward a counter proposal and put the name of Joe Quaid forward. We then had some discussion on the way Jerry Wallace was brought into the system - Michael Oâ€™ Riordan had earlier told delegates that Wallace would be involved in all underage teams from U-14 to minor.
Others along with Donal Morrissey questioned the top table on this matter and the Ahane delegate said the Board were being disingenuous in the way they were handling the matter, â€œYou are treating us like a bit of fodderâ€. Michael Oâ€™ Riordan said that Wallace was part of the package and if defeated he could not tell the meeting if he would work with another management team.
Others felt that the committee had put before them an uncompleted team as they had yet to fill one position as selector but the counter proposal was taken first and when the Chairman Liam Lenihan asked for a show of hands in favour, it left us in no doubt that there was going to be only one winner.
I would suggest there was in excess of two hundred at the meeting but the vote in favour of Joe Quaid yielded only seventeen votes. It left the five man committe and Brian Ryan and his management team with a crystal clear victory. This was a very clear outcome and the clubs had voted strongly in favour of backing Brian Ryan. It was rather sad that it had to come to this. I can understand how Joe Quaid felt, on a few occasions on radio and at this meeting he said it was not about Joe Quaid but he made it about himself by going on radio and more or less saying the clubs had a choice of backing him or what the committee had put forward. I listened to him speaking on both Limerick stations and, while he may well have thought he was getting his side of the story out to clubs. I felt the more he talked the worse it got for him.
In the days leading up to this meeting I am aware that parents of some the players on the U-16 team were contacted and that was another poor decision. At County Board executive level a vote was taken to support Brian Ryan and it was close, Liam Oâ€™Sullivan voted against his own clubman Eamonn Cregan, but when it later came before the Claughaun club the vote was well carried in favour of Cregan.
It must be said that Joe Quaid, Ray Ryan and Don Flynn have worked very hard over the past three years and it is sad that it had to finish this way.
It was difficult for Joe but it must also have been difficult for Brian Ryan. I donâ€™t know him personally but his record of involvement with Limerick goes back a long way. He played with Limerick, trained Limerick to win the National League in 1997 and spent three years with the Limerick minors between 2002 and 2005 when they went to the All Ireland Final. Clear attempts were made to bring his role as a selector with Justin McCarthy into play over the past week or so and that was wrong, very wrong.
It is a pity that Joe Quaid is not part of Brian Ryanâ€™s team going forward because the players he managed and Limerick hurling would have been the better for it but Joe has decided not to take up such an offer.
As a county we have lots of ground to make up and I have to say that having Jerry Wallace on board has to be a step in the right direction. I was in Kilkenny last week, prior to the All Ireland Final, and it is clear that we are light years behind what they are doing.
So many of our clubs are weak and this is where the likes of Kilkenny are way ahead. The players going into county squads in Kilkenny are ready to hurl but in Limerick it is taking a very long time to get them to that level. We are making progress but it needs to be moved on to a higher level and clubs need to start working if we want to bridge the gap of All Ireland success.
As mentioned above, I was in Kilkenny last week and I met Tommy Lanigan, the Chairman of the James Stephens Club. He told me of the many things they are doing to develop Kilkenny hurling even more.
I was interested to hear him say, â€œWe donâ€™t always get it right in Kilkenny, we do have rows, but when Kilkenny is at stake we all go in the one directionâ€. Maybe itâ€™s time all those involved in Limerick hurling went in the one direction.
1. Kiely crosshead