In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at the challenge facing new Limerick senior football manager John Brudair.
It took some time to fill the position of Limerick senior football manager, and it’s fair to say it wouldn’t be the most glamorous as far as intercounty jobs are concerned.
However, despite the lack of interest and the lethargic nature of the search, it was fitting that Drom-Broadford man John Brudair is now finally in place and will lead Limerick football for the next couple of years. It’s a job that will require huge commitment and effort because for the best part of ten years little if any progress has been made at underage football in Limerick.
It has of course been given lots of lip service, but in reality no focused effort was made to try and lay a foundation that would provide young players for the future. In those years the entire focus was on the senior team and most of the resources were also structured around this team.
Many of the key players have departed the stage and others are close to the final act and this will see John Brudair having to start a rebuilding job with limited talent. He will bring energy to the job and he will need it because huge time will have to be invested in players that may lack the finesse of other counties.
Managing a so called weaker country is very demanding, time consuming and at times more than challenging but Brudair will bring honesty and a systematic approach that might just see small steps to progress.
Limerick will play in Division 3 of the National League next year and that won’t be easy. They did well to come out of Division 4 this year but trying to find new players, develop skills and a game plan that suits them will be difficult to do in Division 3. This division is very competitive and Limerick will open their league account against (as of now managerless) Sligo away on Sunday February 2 and the following week will have Longford at home. Other teams in this division include Offaly, Cavan, Fermanagh, Roscommon and Wexford.
Limerick have little choice but to try and unearth new players who will have to be baptised in the league and given the game time if they are to have any hope of surviving come championship time.
To his credit John Brudair has wasted little time and over the past couple of weeks he has held trials and has already a training panel in place and some fresh blood will be given a chance to develop.
For as much as Limerick supporters like to see the footballers doing well they are, for the best part, ploughing an entirely different field to that of the hurling base but, to their credit, they have given some of the best days for Limerick GAA over the past ten years. The footballers would be seen as an honest group that go about their business in a quiet way. A few of the players have endured a lot over those years and have given great leadership and honesty to those that have joined the setup and now others will have to step up to the table.
Limerick came close during what could be termed the good years for Limerick but for as close as they came they lacked the killer blow to put the big names away. They won respect from many for their efforts but now Limerick must build a new base for the future. New players will have be found and developed and it won’t be easy in the short term.
Limerick football needs a major shakeup. It needs new people driving change from the top instead of sitting around following a tired formula that has reaped little reward. Limerick football has a chance now to build for the future and set targets for underage teams for the next five years with the ambition of reaching a Munster Final at minor level. Target people and provide resources to develop underage teams and identify some schools where real focus and support can be given instead of tokenism. Some hard questions also need to be asked from time to time and where people are not performing they need to be replaced.
Limerick trained for months at minor level this year and yet when they played Waterford, who had done no collective training, they lost. Our U-21 team tried hard but they also lacked the quality to survive with the big teams. Limerick football lacks real planning. It also lacks drive and ambition and until that process becomes part of the makeup then we have little chance of making the sort of breakthrough that those who support football would like.
I fully understand how difficult a challenge lies ahead for Limerick football but while the football board has sat back, so also has the County Board. They need to play their part in laying a new foundation at all levels in Limerick football, use some of the experiences from hurling and then and only then will Limerick football move forward.
John Brudair and his management team will bring freshness and the drive that new management teams bring but he will need support at all levels if progress is to be made. What we know about Brudair is that he won’t lack ambition and that’s always a good starting point for any manager.
He will have good days and bad days but it’s about making small incremental steps towards a better future for Limerick football and I wish him well in his pursuit.
Hurling the loser as wrong decision is made once again
Hurling was the real loser last Saturday as counties voted in Croke Park on the National League structures for the next three years. As a result it will see Limerick once again stay in Division 1B along with Cork and that is a great pity as it would have helped Limerick develop had the expected changes taken place.
This has been a right mess with many no hurling counties deciding what hurling counties should do. Players, supporters and the game in general have been badly let down by such a decision.