Martin Kiely Column - Big challenge for new Limerick managers

Joint Limerick hurling manager Donal O'Grady
In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at the challenge facing new Limerick managers Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan.

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at the challenge facing new Limerick managers Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan.

Social media has become a powerful resource in the way news is reported and in this regard it has been embraced by GAA clubs in a major way.

The Garryspillane club is no different and they wasted little time in congratulating their clubman on becoming part of the new management structure in Limerick, the tag line read “All roads lead to Croker” and of course that will be the hope of all in Limerick and in many respects they hit the nail on the head because the new management will be judged on what this team does in Croke Park.

They are taking over a team that has won a Munster title and the next obvious step is to win the All Ireland title. Donal O’ Grady and TJ Ryan are taking over a team ready to battle and they will be under a fair degree of pressure to deliver.

They will be judged on honesty of effort and silverware and they will know only too well that they will have to hit the ground running to get the backing of the entire county. There will be no getting to know you period here, the management know the player base and know what is to be done and for that reason I would expect Limerick to take a further step forward.

Winning another Munster title would be great but this Limerick team need to be in Croke Park in September.

I think most Limerick G.A.A supporters were surprised by the joint manager role between Donal O’ Grady and TJ Ryan. The five man committee for some reason developed this system and time will tell if they are to be proven right.

For my own behalf I am not a fan of joint managers and it’s seldom used in most sports particularly GAA and it’s very strange that the committee went along with such a system. For the best part joint mangers have failed in most cases and it will be very interesting to see just how it works out in Limerick.

Did the five man committe have another Cork man Ger Cunningham in place before this new arrangement came about?

He wanted to pick his own selectors but he was not given the right to do so - Why? He was offered the job and could it be he was later texted to say the offer was off the table? If that was the case it was a very poor way of doing business.

He wanted particular people to work with him but was not given his way and for that reason the first choice man had little option but to walk away. He was asked would he work with one man the committee put forward but could not see his way to doing so.

Quite a few people have been left with a sour taste about how the process was handled and next time round such a system of picking people and personel may want to be looked at because it would appear to have gone stale. Prior to this it was a three man committee and for the best part they kept it together but add County Board lads and we all know what happens.

The special meeting of the County Board was called last week to give the seal of approval to the new management team. Many were not slow to offer comment about how dissatisfied they were with the process and the chosen men before the meeting but when it came to speak on the matter by invitation of the Chairman they had nothing so say.

It was quite amazing, in reality they had no voice and as one delegate said later, “It would have made no difference, it was a shambles and most delegates I spoke to said it was better to leave it pass in silence rather that talk about our disgust in how the matter was handled”. Donal O’ Grady left in great haste a couple of years ago and many were very surprised that his return has come so fast but doing so he has heaped pressure on himself because he will be expected to deliver.

His hurling style last time out did not suit Limerick and it will be very interesting to see what system he will introduce this time around. Limerick were miles of the pace in Croke Park against Clare and they will need to apply themselves well to match the skill, balance and pace we saw from Clare. If Limerick want to be serious contenders next year they will have to move to a different level and it’s up to Donal O’ Grady and TJ Ryan to guide the team on this journey.

It’s been a quick recall for TJ Ryan, having had only one year with the U21 team and he will know that that experience did not go at all well. Limerick were sloppy in many ways going down to Thurles for that game and many supporters felt that his team could have gone a long way in the championship.

I do hope he has learned from that game, I do wish him well and I would like nothing better than to see him winning an All Ireland with this team. If that is to happen he can’t be everybody’s friend. Hurling at the highest levels requires hard calls to be made and the question is, can he make them?

He said once that “Managers have to make the hard calls” but when such a call was made in Limerick he took sides instead of staying out of the matter. Would Limerick be Munster Champions today if such calls weren’t made? I doubt it.

I think deep down TJ knows he made the wrong choice back then and such an experience will have taught him some hard lessons that he can now put to good use. He will know more about the Limerick supporters than most - when winning all is grand but once the results start going the wrong way the pressure and heat will rise.

As mentioned I don’t like the idea of joint bosses but it’s what we have now, I want to see them lift Limerick hurling to a really high level. The sort of levels that will bring the best from all concerned. I want to see players concentrating on the matters on the field and not losing focus with press comment.

Managers too need to focus and leave all other press commitments behind them. It takes a lot to get the winning formula and management have a key role in setting out the template to winning because after all they have to make the hard calls if we want all roads to lead to Croker.