Martin Kiely - Independent GAA review needed

Limerick captain �amonn Grimes lifts the Liam McCarthy cup in 1973
In this week’s Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely calls for an independent review into Limerick GAA.

In this week’s Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely calls for an independent review into Limerick GAA.

It’s only when the finishing line for the All Ireland hurling championship comes into focus that you fully accept that yet another year has passed without success for Limerick. The long, lingering wait goes on to end the barren spell since 1973.

Yes Limerick have come close on a few occasions, but close is just not good enough and no one remembers who came second. One would think that lessons would have been learned over such a long spell but the facts tell us otherwise.

Limerick had teams and players good enough to win but sadly 42 years have passed since Eamonn Grimes climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand in Croke Park.

I have no memories of that win over Kilkenny but as young players we grew up listening to the stories of games and great players.

That’s what winning All Ireland titles does, it leaves a legacy, a value that no economist could quantify. Limerick will continue to produce hurlers, players that will equal or better what other counties deliver but unless a formula is put in place the waiting for delivery of the Liam MacCarthy Cup will go on. Limerick needs to be united in every aspect for that to happen but unless great leadership is displayed by those in power then very little will change in Limerick.

The formula that Limerick has operated from up to now has not worked at senior level. We have failed to deliver from the player base that we have had for so many years.

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Brian Cody and Kilkenny. A little over 20 years ago they could see where the county was going and how they had to change the formula if they were to be successful. They rallied players of the past and set high standards at County Board level. They were lucky also that they had some very capable officials that put Kilkenny first and just look what has happened. Limerick has lots to learn from Kilkenny and Brian Cody and unless we adopt some of those lessons then we will find it hard to make progress.

The Limerick County Board has followed the same tired formula for too long.

This system needs to be examined by people from outside the County Board. Clare have enjoyed great success at U-21 level winning three titles in a row and a senior title in between but still well respected people like Brian Lohan, Ger Loughnane and Johnny Callinan called for an independent assessment of how business is done in Clare.

Given Limerick’s poor results at senior level should not the same thing happen in Limerick? It will require a lot of hard work to get Limerick up the steps of the Hogan Stand in the coming years. No one thing on its own will be good enough.

I always feel that the county chairman has a massive part to play; he is the man who sets the agenda and makes sure the right tone is set. He must provide leadership and demand results from his fellow board officers, paid staff and the various team managements. On too many occasions in the past the county chairman has adopted a policy of “don’t rock the boat” but this is just not good enough for the long term good of Limerick hurling. People work well to targets and the chairman must set those targets. This is what is done in the successful counties. I have yet to hear a plan or vision from a Limerick chairman. Why is that?

The chairman cannot be a pleaser and allow himself to be controlled by other officers. He must be his own man and not be afraid of offending people and making hard calls. He must look around and see all the many fine people that have been treated badly by the Limerick County Board and find a way of using their skills and talents for the good of Limerick hurling.

The county secretary also has a major part to play in making sure a county is successful.

It must not be about building a power base to protect himself but rather a man that is a facilitator and binds the county together. This was once a voluntary position but not anymore, the holder now is well paid. A good county secretary must have the capacity to stand back and manage. He must make things happen in a quiet and efficient way which aids the development of clubs, players and managements. Limerick can continue to do as before but unless we change how business is done then I feel we will find it very hard to win the All Ireland title.

For a county like Limerick to win the All Ireland then I feel the management and players will have to go on a journey that they have not encountered before. It will take a massive effort and that will require them to test themselves to the very limit.

There can be no other way. They will need to be selfish as players, single minded in the pursuit of winning that All Ireland title.

The manager and his management team will have to grind out the best players for the panel.

Please don’t have lads on because of politics or friendships because we see where that has got us. If you can’t make hard calls then you don’t deserve the role as Limerick hurling manager. The management team must ensure that players allow nothing come in the way of the dream of winning the All Ireland. Honesty and no ego are the key words in the Kilkenny dressing room, it has served them well and should Limerick adopt the same policy then who knows what might happen.

Someone in high office in Limerick GAA must take a leadership position and understand that the current system is just not working. Of course we have had some success at minor and U-21 but it has to be translated into the senior ranks.

I have said before that the nod and wink has destroyed Limerick GAA and unless it’s removed then we will follow the same sorry path to the loser’s enclosure at senior level.

A culture of high standards must apply to those who run our games, manage our teams and wear the Limerick jersey.

We don’t need to be telling people what we are doing, let our hurling do the talking on the field. All too often players think the development is over when they make the senior hurling panel. It’s only beginning, of course, and sadly many of them fail to deliver on their true potential because they become “Happy Hurlers” – all too happy just to be part of the set up.

Players must never allow sideshows interfere with the wearing the green and white of Limerick because if they do then it affects the entire team and its ambitions.

It takes a lot of people going in the same direction to win an All Ireland title both on and off the field and the facts show that has not always been the case in Limerick. We have under achieved for far too long, we keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.

I hope someday in the near future that a Limerick man will hold the Liam MacCarthy Cup high in the Hogan Stand.

It’s the dream that we all have but unless careful planning and high standards are applied the journey to those steps will be as far away as ever.