Martin Kiely Column - Nobody emerges with credit shambolic hurling situation

Former Limerick hurling joint manager Donal O'Grady
In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks back on another bad week for Limerick GAA.

In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks back on another bad week for Limerick GAA.

Once more Limerick GAA is in a shambolic state after Donal O’ Grady decided to walk away from Limerick for the second time and thus leaving the Limerick senior hurling team in a pathetic state less than six weeks away from their championship meeting with Tipperary.

Anyone who had been keeping their eye on the Limerick hurling scene would have known only too well that the preparation of the team was shocking . For that, Donal O’Grady, TJ Ryan and his management team must take full responsibility. The appointment of both of these men took everyone by surprise in Limerick but it came about as a result of the chosen candidate not being allowed to pick his own team.

The committee wanted TJ Ryan – or was it that one man on the committee wanted TJ? – to be a part of the new team to lead Limerick and when that was the case the first choice man decided he would have no part of it. Donal O’Grady entered the picture along with TJ Ryan and it appeared all were happy. This was far from the case from a very early stage and the majority of people in Limerick clubs had no confidence in this new arrangement.

O’Grady’s departure came about, as he says, due to the fact that the three main officers of the County Board called him and TJ Ryan to answer why the team was performing so badly. Now while that was just a window-dressing exercise for the County Board it has turned out to be the ideal way for Donal O’Grady to walk from a ship that he has failed to steer. The captain never leaves the ship and it shows Donal O’Grady has lost the ability to manage at this level and his coaching methods are no longer applicable to this level of hurling.

On this occasion the school master didn’t like to be asked to account for his actions. I will deal with O’Grady again later but for now this latest walkout leaves Limerick hurling in a miserable state and the five man committee have some questions to answer themselves. They took more than 60 days to make the appointment and that in itself tells its own story but it also calls into question the judgment of this group and more importantly the judgment of County Secretary Michael O’Riordan and Treasurer Donal Morrissey who were part of the five man committee. Surely heads will have to roll at the highest level in the County Board now?

Donal O’Grady was allowed keep his media duties and yet be joint Limerick manager. What other county would allow that? His latest walkout comes about as result of the April County Board meeting. The County Secretary told the club delegates that O’Grady and Ryan had held up their hands and “apologised for the abysmal” displays during the league at a previous league review meeting.

Donal O’Grady said: “This statement is simply untrue.” He added: “The co managers were appalled and alarmed that such statements were made and completely undermined the efforts of the players. The co- managers sought a retraction of the apology statement and further clarifications but none was forthcoming.”

The Corkman tells us that Oliver Mann admitted without issue that no apology was tendered to the officers by the management. Now someone is telling untruths here and it needs to be clarified. I know from experience that one officer on the board does not do apologies.

Were the club delegates misled at the last County Board meeting? No one in Limerick County Board ever takes responsibility for their actions. Will they now?

I was prepared to give Donal O’Grady and particularly T J Ryan every chance, even though he had failed badly with the U-21 team last year.

TJ was promoted from the U21s and that went down very badly with so many of the clubs. I wanted it to work for them but from an early stage I knew the basics were not in place.

They couldn’t even book the pitches in UL in time despite having plenty of time to do so. They had to share the pitch with the minor team at times and overall it was a complete disaster.

I decided not to write about it in order to give them every chance. When Limerick played Clare in the Waterford Crystal in Sixmilebridge I got a further insight into how this new team would work. I asked Donal O’ Grady for an interview and he replied, “I can’t get a word in with TJ – he will do all the talking.”

I could see from an early stage where this was going. I walked over to TJ Ryan as I wanted an interview for RTE radio but moreover it was my way of moving forward because TJ, who became the official spokesman for the players during the strike, took it personally that I had a view point. But he forgot that 66% of the club delegates in Limerick also had the same view. It showed a real lack of maturity.

I approached him and asked for his views and he replied, “No, you’re grand” and walked away with a smile on his face happy, as he told someone later, “to put Kiely in his place”. Well it didn’t bother me too much because I could see long before TJ that his term with Limerick had gotten off to a very poor start.

Limerick were late coming onto the field for that match with Clare and later TJ told reporters that there was a problem with the tunnel in Limerick and that delayed them – but he forgot to tell us that they were training in Meelick before the game.

Over the past few weeks some players let me know just how bad things have been. One told me: “I fear going to Thurles at this stage.” The County Board spent almost €20,000 on a video analysis kit but players told me: “We piled into the smallest dressing rooms in South Limerick trying to watch the results on a 28-inch TV – and from that night on the players started to lose hope.”

If the County Secretary gave the wrong impression at the last County Board meeting then that was wrong but Donal O’Grady cannot hide behind that alone.

The team performed so badly in the league and both he and TJ Ryan must carry the can for that.

I have written in recent weeks about how the team was preparing and how poor it was. They had no plan and while many of the players were letting it be known just how bad it was, they chose to say nothing.


Nowhere does the statement from the joint managers deal with just how poor the team performances were. The week of the Offaly match saw one of the management team otherwise engaged in another sport for a number of days. Would we tolerate this from players?

Donal O’Grady said it’s all about the players but many of the team are very annoyed that a national newspaper – namely the Irish Examiner – had the news before them. That just happens to be the paper Donal O’Grady writes for.

This is another huge mess and once more Limerick is the laughing stock of the country. Why did Donal O’ Grady come back to Limerick? Only the man himself can answer that one but plenty in the county have their own views on the matter. Limerick is the loser once again.

He left in haste last time out and this time he leaves another mess. The question most coaches ask when leaving a team is, did I leave them better than I got them?

On this occasion Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan would have to say No.