Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Thiobraid Árann

Westside column – November 14th 2015

November 12th, 2015

Long awaited, finally arrives. At last Michael Ryan has announced his senior hurling cabinet for the coming year. Declan Fanning will be coach with John Madden as a third selector. The announcement has ending weeks – even months – of speculation.

The public reaction has been muted. Compared to other Munster counties it lacks headline potential. Declan Fanning was part of the management team this year so the Lorrha man is the only newcomer to the set-up. It’s expected that Gary Ryan will again take charge of the physical training.

One assumes the long delay in announcing the management springs from the raft of refusals Mick Ryan had to negotiate. That’s the perception at least and there’s been no denial from the ‘Church man or elsewhere. Didn’t Liam Cahill comment earlier on the reluctance of ex-players to serve with county panels? Some were slightly irked by that comment but it’s veracity is now surely beyond question.

Ideally you’d like to have a list of ex-players with potential working their way up through development squads and underage panels. Such a learning curve would prepare people for the top task instead of the haphazard situation that pertains at present where candidates are often plucked from obscurity.

John Madden will be remembered from the 1989/91 era as a wing back of tan and élan. He played corner back in the famous Munster final of 1990 against Cork. He was more recognised as a wing back so his selection at number two was contentious. There was a critical moment in the second half when a misjudgment let John Fitzgibbon in for a goal. That was a day when we showed lots of misjudgments on both pitch and sideline. Mark Foley went to town and Cork slipped in for an All Ireland that might (should?) have been ours.

The Lorrha man was back in vogue for the Munster campaign of 1991 but missed out for the All Ireland phase against Galway and then Kilkenny in the final. Still he has two All Ireland medals as a panelist as well as an U21 award from 1989. That was the unforgettable day in Portlaoise against Offaly, one which we had no right to win but did on the back of three Dan Quirke goals. John Madden was wing back.

Since those playing days the Lorrha man spent an extended spell in the US. Back home he coached Silvermines this year without making any significant breakthrough. Interestingly our management trio for 2016 all come from defensive backgrounds.

Critics will see the new management as a continuation of the old though Michael Ryan was keen in interview during the week to talk about putting his own stamp on the team. We certainly need something different because more of the same will bring the same results.

Eoin Kelly spoke during the year about a culture change when Mick Ryan takes over. He didn’t elaborate on what that meant though I suspect that Eamon O’Shea’s avuncular approach will be replaced by a sterner voice this time. In all these appointments there’s an unknown element that will only reveal itself as the year unfolds. We certainly have passionate hurling men in charge and they’ll desire success every bit as earnestly as the rest of us. We wish them luck.

Incidentally on a side issue I note that Mick Ryan has already decided not to take part in the Waterford Crystal tournament in January. Apparently he sees little value in many of those games and prefers a pre-planned schedule of friendlies to build up for the league. I’m inclined to agree with him.

The minor and U21 hurling managements were also unveiled last week and I suppose the big news here is the appointment of Willie Maher to the U21 job. It’s the one he wanted two years back after his successful stint with the minors. He brings John Devane with him as coach and Billy O’Shea as selector and liaison link with the seniors. John Devane has a wealth of experience as a player as well as his coaching involvement with the Thurles CBS Harty win last year. This is a promising looking U21 set up. They face a tough challenge with eleven of Limerick’s All Ireland winning fifteen still eligible in 2016.

The reappointment of Liam Cahill and his committee to the minor job will be well received too. It’s generally accepted that they got the best out of limited resources this year so there’s confidence in the group, though the dual-player issue still hovers in the background.

Interestingly there was no football management appointed at last week’s County Board meeting and therein lies a story that seems to have slipped the attention of the media. Prior to the meeting there were published accounts of Liam Kearns being the new Tipperary football supremo. It was all presented as something of a fait accompli merely awaiting the rubber stamp of the County Board. Well it appears that the rubber stamp may be more of an iron fist now because that appointment is very much on hold at the moment.

It seems somebody overstepped the mark here in publishing an appointment that simply hadn’t been made. The Football Board after all is merely a sub-committee of the County Board with power only to recommend appointments. Ultimately the County Board is paymaster and controller of affairs and rightly called a halt when it wasn’t happy with the details.

It’s an extraordinary occurrence which has created something of a stand-off. You now have the curious situation of an heir-apparent to Peter Creedon actively talking to players and putting his management team in place even though he’s not appointed. He may well be appointed in the coming weeks but at the moment the word presumption comes to mind.

Meanwhile the Munster club semi-final between Sarsfields and Na Piarsaigh goes ahead on Sunday next after both the Munster Council and the Limerick club agreed to the week’s postponement. Deferring the game was the right call so credit to all concerned for making it.

It’s difficult to anticipate what impact the tragedy will have on Sarsfields’ display next Sunday. It could either deflate the team or fire an ambition to honour the memory of their lost colleague. It’s a game with huge potential though the wet conditions this week won’t help – especially a Sarsfields side that likes a firm sod and fast moving sliotar. Within Limerick Na Piarsaigh is seen as a team with considerable firepower in attack but vulnerable in defence. If Sarsfields can curtail, Dowling, Downes and company at one end they have the potential to prosper at the other.

It’s a crucial game for both sides who’ll be aware that the All Ireland series this time won’t feature Ballyhale or Portumna, two of the most formidable winners of all time. There are some years when openings appear and you need to take your chance. Both these sides are recent Munster winners, which adds to the game’s potential. Sarsfields remain slight favourites but they’ll need to step up from their Tipperary form if they’re to justify that tag. Good luck to them.

Meanwhile the local club action continues in the background with South minor champs, St. Mary’s, pulling off a notable semi-final win over Clonoulty on Saturday last. The game went to extra time where the South side swamped the West in a flurry of scores.

The decisive turn came early in that extra time when Clonoulty had a penalty. Dillon Quirke hit it well but goalie, Jamie Ahearn, made a super save and play immediately swung downfield where Matt Barlow pounced for a crucial goal. That was a turnover of six points and Mary’s never looked back after that. The Mary’s full forward, Barlow, a recognisable Clonmel name, was the star of the show scoring an incredible 2-8 from open play.

I’d give Mary’s a lot of credit for staying in this contest when Clonoulty looked to have an edge on them. They stayed competitive, kept battling in the heavy conditions and eventually wore down their opponents. They’ll be long-shot outsiders now in the final against Kildangan (I noticed Eamon Kelly keeping a watchful brief on events in New Inn) but they have the example of Moyle Rovers last year to inspire them.

Finally the All Star awards yielded just a single statuette for Tipperary. Seamie Callanan was a proverbial shoo-in at full forward. Cathal Barrett had his backers too and was probably unlucky to be overlooked though it’s my understanding that he wasn’t in contention. His curtailed season was no help.

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