Limerick demise a tragedy, reflects Hand

It was bad enough for Eoin Hand to observe his former employer deep in trouble last week but to see his former club sink beyond rescue this week was especially heartbreaking.

Limerick demise a tragedy, reflects Hand

It was bad enough for Eoin Hand to observe his former employer deep in trouble last week but to see his former club sink beyond rescue this week was especially heartbreaking.

As it stands, due to an examiner being unable to source new investment, senior football won’t exist next year in Limerick, a county Hand brought league and FAI Cup success to in the early 1980s.

“I knew things were bad but have to say that I didn’t see the whole show being ended,” he said.

“Limerick is a great sporting city and the football club going out of business is a tragedy not just to the county but the country as a whole.

“My personal history with Limerick makes this news even worse.”

The former Ireland player and manager had also worked for their FAI as career guidance officer but his relationship with the association soured in 2012.

At that stage, with the FAI facing mounting debts over the Vantage Club disaster, Hand was among the many stalwarts cast aside.

Despite winning an Unfair Dismissals case, the decision was overturned when an appeal deemed his employment over 13 years to be as a consultant and not an employee.

The FAI rescinded his entitlement as a former manager to a couple of tickets for watch the senior team play at Lansdowne Road.

Hand, now 73, was only removed from the blacklist in March.

Participants get in the festive spirit during the FAI/SDCC Christmas Fun Day at Tallaght Leisure Centre in Dublin.
Participants get in the festive spirit during the FAI/SDCC Christmas Fun Day at Tallaght Leisure Centre in Dublin.

Delaney’s caretaker replacement at CEO Noel Mooney reached out, offering an apology on behalf of the association for the shabby treatment meted out one who contributed so much to the game.

Despite all the depths the FAI have since reached, finally revealing the extent to their financial troubles last Friday through the publication of annual accounts, Hand’s considers the present troubles as an opportunity to reboot Irish football.

Proposals made in recent days by a delegation of staff to Government towards ringfencing the grassroots section of the embattled organisation into state ownership are very much at an exploratory stage.

Uefa and Fifa apply strict rules in terms of state interference, meaning the control by football authorities is unlikely to be totally relinquished under any hybrid model.

Irrespective of the financial challenges placed on the Department of Sport, Hand believes the dying of the old Delaney regime, soon to be furthered by the resignation of president Donal Conway, can facilitate the growth of a new, fresh era for Irish football.

“Despite this horrible situation, the only way is up for Irish football,” he asserted.

“Certain people within the FAI got too greedy over the past decade and it took a judge in the High Court to give the breakthrough for all this to unravel.

“It had to happen because for too long the game was essentially allowed to be run by one man. He surrounded himself with people who towed the party line and I’m glad that they’ve had to leave too.

“We have to look upon this as a chance to bring pride back to Irish football.

"It’s just unfortunate that the financial mess will likely impact on programmes which are essential to develop young players. That’s the real shame here.”

FAI development officer Robby De Courcy with Mason Devoy from Scoil Mochua, Clondalkin.
FAI development officer Robby De Courcy with Mason Devoy from Scoil Mochua, Clondalkin.

Hand is also lamenting the debacle at Limerick. As a native of Kerry for the past 20 years, he kept in touch with the progress or otherwise of the club that provided him with a gateway into management in 1979.

The player-boss repaid their trust with a league title the next year and FAI Cup in 1982.

Similar to Stephen Kenny in the modern era, his domestic strides — which also involved a European Cup tie against Real Madrid — progressed him to the international sphere.

“Limerick were responsible for me getting the Ireland job,” he said of his elevation to a position he for a short period combined with his Limerick duties.

“It really disappoints me to see how the club have struggled.

"The owner Pat O’Sullivan invested plenty of money but some terrible decisions with managerial appointments and player recruitment badly cost them.

“From attending some of the game, I could see that lots of players brought in from abroad weren’t trying a leg.

"The only consolation was that it wasn’t me managing them.

“I can hope that the club continues in some form but that is difficult to see now.

“To watch a club of that tradition run into the ground is a real tragedy.”

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