Limerick hurling crisis - a series of draft statements unsigned

Jerome O’Connell

Reporter:

Jerome O’Connell

Donal O'Grady and TJ Ryan pictured in the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday during the National Hurling League double-header
ANOTHER fine mess for Limerick GAA.

ANOTHER fine mess for Limerick GAA.

And a mess that could have been avoided if all concerned really really wanted to put the future of the Limerick senior hurling team central to their actions.

Who is to blame?

Both sides........

The sides being joint-managers Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan at logger heads with Limerick GAA executive trio of chairman Oliver Mann, secretary Mike O’Riordan and treasurer Donal Morrissey.

Two weeks ago many heralded the words of criticism that were directed towards the hurling set-up at the April County Board meeting. The words, especially from secretary Mike O’Riordan, came as the monthly meeting debated what was unquestionably a poor National Hurling League campaign from Limerick.

Were all concerned entitled to voice their opinions? Were the comments over the top? Was it fair for county officials to speak of the county team - and management - at a meeting like that?

This week, bizarrely many of the same supporters who praised the officials for calling the management to task,are now castigating the County Board for those very words.

The end result is that just over five weeks from the defence of Limerick’s Munster SHC title, Donal O’Grady, an All Ireland winning manager with Cork, and Limerick’s joint manager has resigned.

Why?

Because of semantics.

At the April County Board meeting (April 8), Mike O’Riordan told club delegates, that at a league review meeting (April 3) with the joint-managers they had “basically apologised for the performance against Offaly in particular - they put their hands up”.

Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan took exception, stating that they have never ‘apologised’.

It appears they had accepted accountability but not “basically apologised”.

Semantics surely.

O’Grady sought a meeting to discuss that quotation and other comments made at the meeting and which were reported exclusively in LeaderSport (April 10).

Oliver Mann, Mike O’Riordan and Donal Morrissey met with O’Grady and Ryan in Charleville the next day (Friday, April 11).

It was agreed to post a clarification on the Limerick GAA website.

Treasurer Donal Morrissey was tasked with writing the clarification.

On Monday afternoon (April 14) Morrissey emailed a draft statement of clarification to O’Grady.

The following day (April 15) O’Grady replied that it wasn’t acceptable to him. There are reports that it was accepted by TJ Ryan but he wasn’t contactable this week to answer questions from the Limerick Leader.

On the Thursday night (April 17) members of the Limerick senior hurling panel knew something was amiss when Morrissey and O’Grady chatted for almost an hour in a car at their training base in Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale.

Morrissey left to type up what he felt was agreeable to both parties.

The second draft was emailed to O’Grady late that night butthe following day (April 18) O’Grady replied that he was still not happy with the wording of what was an extensive statement.

Later that Friday, Limerick GAA decided that it would be best for an intermediary to complete the process and Jim Woulfe agreed to fill the role.

The Limerick native, who is CEO of Dairygold, was part of the independent appointments committee that proposed O’Grady’s involvement with Limerick in both 2011 and 2013.

However, it is understood that there was never any conversation between Woulfe and O’Grady, although they were in contact.

Thirty six hours later (Sunday, April 20) O’Grady and Ryan sat side by side in the Gaelic Grounds at the semi-final double-header of the National Hurling League.

O’Grady was approached and asked if he was open to a brief meeting. A third draft of the statement was prepared but O’Grady declined the meeting and never got to see the latest draft.

Within hours O’Grady had departed.

The manner of his departure has left a sour taste with many - including some inter-county players. It appears the players were behind the media in hearing of the decision of their manager.

Around 11.15 last Sunday night the general public began to become aware of the latest crisis to hit Limerick GAA.

On Monday morning, the Irish Examiner newspaper, had the exclusive statement from O’Grady, outling his reasons.

Unfortunately it was 8.30 that evening before a meeting of Limerick GAA officers was convened.

All waited for their expected response but despite meeting for two hours, there was no statement.

Eventually it was released at Tuesday lunch-time and hit back at O’Grady’s tale of events.

But earlier that morning, O’Grady was again quoted in an exclusive Irish Examiner newspaper interview.

He was winning the PR battle and the general public were calling for the heads of leading County Board officials.

It was strange to see O’Grady back in the media, given that he had refused to do any interviews since returning to Limerick. In fact he did one interview and that was with Limerick’s Live 95Fm on the occasion of the presentation of a courtesy car from Limerick Motor Centre.

The Tuesday afternoon statement from Limerick GAA confirmed TJ Ryan would lead Limerick into the championship.

It was a difficult 36 hours in the headlines for Limerick GAA but all appeared done and dusted.

Ryan and selectors Paul Beary and Mark Lyons had the Limerick hurlers back in training this Tuesday night. Afterwards the players were addressed by Ryan and Limerick GAA officials.

All agreed to push forward towards the June 1 clash with Tipperary.

Then Wednesday morning another bolt from the blue when Ryan released his statement in support of O’Grady and apparently hitting out at the Limerick GAA officials, who had given him their backing less than 24 hours earlier. O’Grady was also speaking out again - this time on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland show - where he also hit out at the Limerick officials again.

Some would suggest a move against Ryan for such a statement but it appears he is to remain at the helm as Limerick GAA bids to ride out this latest storm.

The search is now on for a coach to replace O’Grady - and there are a calls in some quarters for that to be a Limerick native.

Meanwhile, the show must go on. Limerick play Cork in a challenge game on Saturday evening and four weeks from Sunday they travel to Thurles to play Tipperary in the Munster championship.