Limerick board evades Justin issue

THERE was a packed hall at the impressive Claughaun GAA complex last night for the special convention of Limerick GAA, followed immediately by the first county board meeting of 2010.

There was a packed agenda also, starting with the election of a new development officer for 2010, the reason for the special convention, and from a quota of 277, Liam O’Sullivan from the host club was elected.

Then it was straight into the county board meeting. It started with a raft of transfer proposals, individuals who wished to switch clubs, and then continued with a raft of proposals and motions for changes in the way the board does its week-to-week business.

One delegate, Carmel Murphy from Limerick and Munster junior champions Blackrock, proposed that any non-urgent business that could be debated at a later date should be deferred, but got little change from board chairman Liam Lenihan.

However long it took, the business of the evening would be conducted in its entirety. For the delegates, then, it was business as usual, doing the nitty-gritty, but, for the assembled media who had come from all corners to hear the reaction to the explosive letter from 24 players that was released on Monday night, it was a wasted trip.

Item by item, Liam went through the Clár for the night, and item by item it was debated, nary a word about Justin nor the turmoil currently wracking Limerick hurling. Club amalgamations and the problems associated therewith, additional games for club players, even retaining the Railway Cup competitions (Limerick is in favour), but whatever happens, don’t mention the war.

The first opportunity to introduce debate on the current debacle, where 24 of the top players in Limerick will not be representing the county in senior hurling this year, would present itself when the name of John Touhy came up for ratification as a senior hurling selector. Pass, not a word of dissent as John’s nomination was approved. Mind you, given Touhy was given very favourable mention in the players’ letter, he was never going to be opposed, but the signs were already there – among the delegates at least, and on this night, there was no stomach for debate. The final opportunity came under Any Other Business, and here, finally, the issue did arise, but from a very specific angle. In their statement, the players had referred to an article by a local journalist who had criticised a specific player, calling him “a cancer on Limerick hurling”; the Croom delegate, Mike Mannion, read a statement from his club in which they took serious exception to what he called “a vindictive attack... which caused the player and his family great distress...”

Several more delegates also spoke on the same topic. “The county board should disassociate ourselves from the disgraceful comments,” said Louis Quirke, from the Ahane club; “I’m sure that player has taken the field for Limerick on many occasions carrying injuries... that article should not have been printed.”

Sean Heffernan (Adare) agreed, as did Donal Morrissey (Ahane) – “I remember coming to meetings of this board, and any time another journalist with that same newspaper, who called himself The Man In The Middle, made any critical reference to a county board officer there were immediate complaints made by the board to the paper; for the same thing to happen now to a man who wore the county jersey with such distinction, I would be surprised if ye haven’t already put pen to paper. That is no way to treat any player, and not naming him, thus giving him no opportunity to address the issues – that was simply cowardly, nothing short of that.”

Strong words, strong feelings, a strong defence of one player, but not a word on the current crisis, the Elephant In The Room.

Afterwards, chairman Liam Lenihan refused to comment on the stinging criticism by the players of the board’s handling of the crisis: “I have already outlined the board’s position on a couple of occasions, to the delegates; the players have now made their statement, and I’m not going to comment on that. On a personal level, I am very friendly with many of the players, and I accept that they too are in a very difficult position. If I now try to pick holes on what they said, I won’t be advancing the cause of Limerick hurling one whit. The door is open for them, they are welcome to come back.”

But are they? Having cut 12 of those players, and given how the other 12 have supported those players, would Justin McCarthy really welcome them back? And given that the players made clear in their statement that they will not now play for Justin McCarthy, what chances of that happening anyway? Whatever, with the board now accepting the status quo, it looks like Limerick will be proceeding as Gerald McCarthy and Cork proceeded last year, with an entirely new team looking set to participate in the upcoming Waterford Crystal and National League. This one looks set to play on, and on and on and on.

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