No holds barred as new book lifts lid on Limerick hurling

A WARTS ‘n all new book on Limerick hurling which has raised hackles in official circles will be launched next week by county hurling sponsor JP McManus.

The new book claims that a post-match drinking session in Charleville by members of the senior hurling panel was the catalyst which led to the end of goalkeeper Joe Quaid’s senior hurling career. It also contains trenchant criticism of members of the county board, most notably by former manager Tom Ryan who derides board members and former All Star hurler Gary Kirby, who believes the board wanted to get rid of himself and Richie Bennis after the defeat to Kilkenny in the 2007 All-Ireland final.

‘Unlimited Heartbreak: The Inside Story of Limerick Hurling’ by Galbally man Henry Martin is a no-holds- barred account of Limerick hurling which reveals bitter internal feuds between senior team management and county board officials and lifts the lid on the drinking culture which blighted the future prospects of several of the members of the successful U-21 three-in-a-row team.

According to the book, much of the fury vented by delegates the night Dave Keane was removed as manager of the Limerick senior hurling squad in 2003 surrounded a drinking session in Charleville on the night of the first round league game against Cork in 2003. Joe Quaid travelled on the Limerick team bus for the final time.

“We stopped in Charleville for a few pints and they were organising house parties and having a singsong on the bus. I was sitting beside the driver at the front of the bus and said, ‘I have enough of this. If after being beaten the way we were today makes them want to sing, I don’t want any part of it,” says Quaid in the book.

Corner-back Stephen McDonagh, a Bruree man, was unaware of the session for some days.

“I had come home to milk cows so I didn’t know what went on til the following Tuesday or Wednesday night. There was apparently a drinking session in Charleville, which happened. The story went around that there was a bottle on the bus,” McDonagh explains.

But according to Dave Keane, however, “drink wasn’t an issue”.

“You have to put it in context – it’s an amateur sport and they are young lads who are winning matches. We got three years from a core of the same players. To me, we didn’t lose any match because of drink,” he says.

All-Star Gary Kirby meanwhile, a selector during Limerick’s last All-Ireland final appearance in Croke Park in 2007 exposes the fractious relationship that existed between the county board and the management group team – with his uncle Richie Bennis at the helm – following the defeat to Kilkenny.

“People don’t know what we had to put up with from the county board. They didn’t want us there in 2008; it was obvious by their reaction towards us. I’d say they nearly wanted to get rid of us after the 2007 All-Ireland,” Kirby states.

However the author, Henry Martin has strongly defended his approach.

“Any Limerick hurling fan who claims to be a genuine hurling fan will want this book,” the Galbally teacher and author told the Limerick Leader. “I’m not looking for any plaudits. There would be no book without the contributions of these people. These people are key,” he continued. With the book only hitting shelves this week, Mr Martin agrees that it is far too early to get to gauge how controversial the book will be. So far, he says, the feedback has been positive. “Stephen McDonagh rang me to say that he couldn’t get to bed on Saturday night. Frankie Carroll is also pleased with it and Tom Ryan is highly impressed,” he said.

* Unlimited Heartbreak: The Inside Story of Limerick Hurling, published by The Collins Press, is available from bookstores at €19.95. The book launch is at the Cú Chulainn Bar, Patrickswell on Saturday, October 10.

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