Boost for McCarthy as O’Brien returns to Limerick

LIMERICK hurler James O’Brien has handed a major boost to under fire manager Justin McCarthy by returning to the county senior squad this squad this week.

Bruree’s O’Brien is the first player who quit the panel in a row over management’s decision to drop 12 high profile colleagues last season to make himself available for the 2010 season.

It is believed that selector JohnTuohy, who led Bruree to Limerick SHC glory in 2006, played a key role in persuading the former skipper to rejoin the county set up.

“I can confirm that James O’Brien is back in training,” said county secretary Mike O’Riordan yesterday.

“But I have no news of anyone else, at the moment.”

The fallout began last October when manager McCarthy cut 12 players including captain Mark Foley, former All Star Andrew O’Shaughnessy, along with both Stephen Lucey and Niall Moran.

That cull, which shocked Limerick hurling, was followed by the withdrawal of 13 more players in a show of solidarity. The defection now of one of those signatories comes as a blow to the others who put pen to paper.

“I suppose it was bound to happen,” was the reaction of one of those who are wished to remain nameless.

“When we didn’t all walk (from the panel) together, then something like this was always a possibility. At that meeting, while no-one was put under pressure to sign – no-one has ever been put under any pressure one way or the other, from the start – it was stressed that once we signed there was no going back or the whole thing would be undermined.”

O’Brien, a former Limerick team captain, will be a huge addition to the panel, adding power, size and strength to what is currently a very young panel. With creditable performances by the new squad in the league losses against Galway and Cork already, it does, however, come as a major boost to the county board and to Justin McCarthy specifically, as they prepare for Sunday week’s daunting encounter against Waterford in Dungarvan.

Meanwhile, a county board meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday night, March 9, and it is expected that Limerick’s first two outings in the National Hurling League will be discussed.

The Shannonsiders have been defeated by both Galway and Cork but the manner of the team’s battling displays on each occasion appears to have bought McCarthy some time.

Limerick sources have also revealed that figures close to the team have been working hard behind the scenes in attempts to get younger players to return.

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