The vast majority of the Limerick panel opted out of McCarthy’s set-up for this year’s league and championship campaigns after the former Waterford boss controversially axed a number of high-profile players from his squad in late 2009. But, with the arrival of exCork boss O’Grady into the Limerick hot seat, they will be able to call on a much strengthened panel next year.
“With the exception of Ollie Moran and Mark Foley — they both retired earlier this year- we’ll have all the players who were involved in the 2009 and 2010 panels,” explained O’Grady, who is making a return to inter-county team management after a six year absence.
“We had a get-together and a trial game about a month ago and all the players expressed an interest in being involved next year. That’s a major boost for us, and, hopefully, a favourable omen for 2011. We’ll be drawing up a panel of players from the lads that impressed us and we’ll be getting down to training in early January.”
However, O’Grady, who managed Cork to the All-Ireland title in 2004, won’t be using the season-opening Waterford Crystal Cup in January as a means of assessing players’ capabilities for the NHL campaign which gets under way on Sunday February 13 when Limerick travel to Ennis for a Division Two clash with arch-rivals Clare.
“It’s nothing against the Waterford Crystal Cup,” stressed O’Grady. But because we can’t start training until January and the Waterford Crystal starts on January 16, we just wouldn’t have done enough physical work before the start of the competition. If we decided to play in it, you could end up with players picking up injuries like pulled hamstrings and groin strains which could rule them out for at least two months. So we’ll be using January to get our players up to a decent fitness level for the NHL and, if we could organise a challenge match or two in that month as well, it would be a big bonus.”
With regard to the element of physical preparation, a major plus for O’Grady is that he has acquired the services of renowned fitness coach Jerry Wallace, whom he worked with when in the Cork hot seat.
“Fitness and conditioning would not be my forte, so in that regard it’s great to have a man of Jerry’s expertise and experience involved with us,” enthused O’Grady. “Jerry did a great job with Cork and he was with Antrim last year.”
When appointed to the Limerick position, the St Finbarr’s clubman insisted his term would be for only one year and he revealed he has not altered his stance in that regard.
“Regardless of what happens, I’ll be staying for only one year,” he remarked.