Thursday, December 31, 2009

Limerick hurling dealt another severe blow

LIMERICK hurling was dealt another severe blow this afternoon with the news that four more players have walked away from Justin McCarthy's senior hurling panel.

It is understood that Tom Condon (Knockaderry), Gavin O'Mahony (Kilmallock), Dinny Moloney (Doon) and Stephen Walsh (Glenroe) all made contact with County Board chairman Liam Lenihan today (December 31, 2009) and officially withdrew from the senior hurling squad - it has also been reported that none of aforementioned players were pressurised into making this decision. It is understood that all four players have decided to withdraw their services because of a growing disillusionment with the senior hurling set-up.
Although club delegates voted in favour (70-54) of retaining the services of Justin McCarthy as manager at a County Board meeting on Thursday, December 17 and Patrickswell's John Tuohy was added to the senior hurling management team as a selector last week this latest development leaves the Cork man in a difficult position with Limerick's first competitive game of the 2010 season just 25 days away - on Sunday, January 24 Limerick will face the winners of the Cork/UCC clash in a Waterford Crystal Cup quarter-final.
On Wednesday, October 28 Justin McCarthy effectively dropped 12 players from his senior hurling panel while eight more, among them some of the most distinguished hurlers on Shannonside, walked away soon after in protest.
Now, with a further four players electing to withdraw their services, only six players remain at McCarthy's disposal from the 30 named for August's ill-fated All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tipperary in Croke Park: Paul Browne (Bruff), Paudie McNamara (Murroe-Boher), David Breen (Na Piarsaigh), Brian O'Sullivan (Kilmallock), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) and Dave Moloney (Blackrock).
The following 24 players are no longer available for selection (based on the 30 players named to face Tipperary in Croke Park): Brian Murray (withdrew), Damien Reale (withdrew), Stephen Lucey (dropped), Mark O'Riordan (dropped), Seamus Hickey (withdrew), Brian Geary (withdrew), Mark Foley (dropped), Donal O'Grady (withdrew), Gavin O'Mahony (withdrew), James Ryan (withdrew), Ollie Moran (retired), Andrew O'Shaughnessy (dropped), David Bulfin (retired), Damien Cosgrave (dropped), Tom Condon (withdrew), Denis Moloney (withdrew), Niall Moran (dropped), Stephen Walsh (withdrew), James O'Brien (withdrew), Wayne McNamara (withdrew), Donncha Sheehan (dropped), Donie Ryan (dropped), Mike O'Brien (dropped) and Eoin Foley (dropped).

Brian McDonnell

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Munster well placed to challenge on two fronts

MUNSTER team manager Shaun Payne believes the team is well-placed to launch a double-pronged assault for Heineken Cup and Magners League honours this season beginning with Saturday’s crunch away tie against Ulster at Ravenhill (6pm).

Back-to-back bonus points wins over USAP Perpignan in the Heineken Cup and Connacht in the Magners League will see Munster travel to Belfast for their round ten league tie in confident mood despite their disappointing run of results away to rivals Ulster in recent seasons.
Munster welcome back the vastly experienced trio of Alan Quinlan, Doug Howlett and Lifeimi Mafi into their squad for the second inter-provincial fixture of the festive period.
Munster’s starting line-up will not include seven Irish internationals who are on the second of two weeks of ‘active rest’. The absent internationals include John Hayes, Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Tomas O’Leary, Ronan O’Gara, who played for 40 minutes against Connacht on St. Stephen’s Day, and Keith Earls.
Team manager Payne said the team was developing valuable momentum as the season reached a critical phase: “I think we are very well placed where we are at the minute without showing any outstanding form apart from the obviously the last two games.
“I’d say we’re satisfied. In fact we’re very satisfied with where we are at the minute.
“I think we are progressing nicely as opposed to last season where we started off with a bang and were five out of five in the Magners League and flying, but obviously came up short at the end of the season, rather disappointingly. This season we just seem to be building nicely, we’re getting a nice bit of momentum going, we’re developing a decent vein of form and I think, importantly, as we saw at the weekend everyone has a bit of form at the weekend.
“The only downside at this stage of the season are the couple of injuries that we have picked up,” Shaun Payne admitted.
Payne said Munster’s double loss to Ulster in last season’s Magners League would continue to be a motivating factor ahead of Saturday’s game.
Munster did avenge their home defeat to Ulster at the start of last year with a bonus point victory over their opponents at Thomond Park at the end of October.
Payne said: “Obviously the double loss against Ulster last year isn’t forgotten in a hurry. Those hurt a lot.
“We’re playing with a good deal of confidence at the minute.
“If you look at the side we put out last week it was still a particularly strong team and I think they performed really well.
“I think Felix Jones coming off was probably the lowest point of the weekend.
“That’s probably a game that would have really suited Felix with a bit of space, there was a lot of running and some nice tries scored, so it was particularly unfortunate that Felix came off.
“Ulster are an excellent side. They can attack you from anywhere on the pitch, they have exciting young players, some guys really coming through.
“Obviously they have players like (Stephen) Ferris, but I think (Ian) Humphries as well is someone who is really doing well. Obviously they have (Darren) Cave in the centre and a couple of really backline players and an excellent back-row.
“We lost to them twice last season so I don’t need to be talking them up at all and we know that the job that faces us especially up there in Ravenhill. We haven’t had a whole heap of success up there and this is always a massive game for us.”
Munster: Scott Deasy, Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Ian Dowling, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Paul Warwick, Duncan Williams, Peter Stringer, Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Julien Brugnaut, Tony Buckley, Damien Varley, Denis Fogarty, Mike Sherry, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, Tommy O’Donnell, Nick Williams.


Footballers launch 2010 campaign

MICKEY Ned O’Sullivan begins his fifth successive competitive campaign at the helm of the senior footballers next Sunday in Kilmallock (2pm) when Limerick take on Waterford IT in the preliminary round of the McGrath Cup.
Although Limerick have won the McGrath Cup on five occasions (2005, 2004, 2001, 1987 and 1985) since the competition was inaugurated in 1981 it is hard to know how seriously Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s squad will treat this first outing of the year. Under O’Sullivan’s guidance Limerick participated in the 2007 and 2008 finals (losing both deciders to Cork and Clare respectively), but they limped out in the preliminary round last year losing 1-7 to 1-9 to the University of Limerick at Foynes.
However Mickey Ned O’Sullivan has named a strong team for this Sunday’s encounter with supporters suspecting that Limerick will use the McGrath Cup as a useful warm-up for the Shannonsiders’ crucial National Football League division four campaign.
Barring late injury withdrawals the Limerick team to face Waterford IT is: Conor Ranahan (Ballysteen), Johnny McCarthy (St. Kieran’s), Conor Mullane (St. Senan’s), Andrew Lane (St. Senan’s), Lorcan O’Dwyer (Pallasgreen), Shane Gallagher (Ballysteen), Diarmaid Carroll (St. Senan’s), John Galvin (Croom), Eoghan Joy (Fr. Casey’s), Stephen Kelly (Newcastle West), James Ryan (Galbally), Seanie Buckley (Drom-Broadford, captain), John Mullane (St. Patrick’s), Ian Ryan (St. Senan’s), Kieran O’Callaghan (Ballylanders). Subs: Brendan Moran (Mungret), Padraig Browne (Fr. Casey’s), Stephen Lavin (Adare), Pa Ranahan (Ballysteen), Mark O’Riordan (Croom), Jim O’Donovan (St. Kieran’s), Bobby O’Brien (Bruff), Wayne Enright (St. Senan’s) and Seamus Mulcahy (Pallasgreen).
It could be argued that Limerick’s early exit from the 2009 McGrath Cup cost the side dearly during a league campaign which saw the Shannonsiders ultimately relegated to division four.
Limerick’s lack of match sharpness saw them lose their opening game 0-6 to 1-14 against Louth - in the end Limerick (-11) were relegated on scoring difference when finishing level on six points with Roscommon (-3), Louth (+11) and Cavan (-3).


Munster hope to buck a trend

IN-form Munster will look to improve on their disappointing record which has seen the Magners League holders record just one win at Ravenhill since 2004 when Tony McGahan’s men renew rivalry with Ulster this Saturday (6pm).

Fourth-placed Munster moved six points ahead of eight-placed Ulster with their convincing 35-3 bonus-point win over Connacht at Thomond Park on Saturday night.
Man of the Match from the game Paul Warwick said Munster had largely contributed to their own downfall on recent visits to Ravenhill.
Warwick said: “We have been guilty of going into our shell, making a lot of errors and being probably intimidated up there in Ravenhill.
“Hopefully, with the ball starting to roll now, we can squash that and really give it to Ulster next week.”
Paul Warwick was largely pleased with how Munster performed against Connacht despite the absence of their front-line Irish internationals.
The likes of Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Wallace, Keith Earls, Tomas O’Leary and John Hayes are set to miss the trip to Belfast this weekend as they are on another week of active rest.
The versatile Warwick said Munster were fortunate to have such strength and depth in the squad.
“We are blessed with the talent with we have in the squad. It makes it really hard for guys on the fringe to crack the side,” Paul Warwick said.
“It was what our Magners League win was based on last season, having guys on the fringes who are hungry to get a result and especially with the pack against Connacht I thought that was evident.
“All eight of them were terrific. There is a hunger, when you put on the jersey, that we are starting to find again.
“Maybe we were guilty of not showing it at the start of the season. There is a real hunger to drive on now after the result in Perpignan.
“It was important,” he said, “to get the bonus point against Connacht. It keeps us in touch with the top of the League. We haven’t played well yet and we are only three points off top spot before tonight. That is a pretty good place to be, I think.
“If we can start building going forward, hopefully we will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”
The win over Connacht on St. Stephen’s day came at a cost. Full-back Felix Jones has been ruled out of action for the immediate future having sustained a neck injury in the opening half of the game at Thomond Park. The injury to Jones occurred in the 14th minute after an accidental collision. He was stretchered off and immediately removed to hospital where Felix Jones remained overnight.
A statement issued today by Munster Rugby read: “Felix Jones will be out of action for the immediate future. The full-back damaged neck ligaments as a result of an accidental collision early in the game with Connacht.
“He was immediately removed to hospital for examination and will remain there for continuing observation for a number of days.”
Confirmation of Jones’ injury comes on the back of the long-term injury sustained by Denis Leamy which will keep him sidelined for between four and six months.

Colm Kinsella

Shannon granted appeal extension

SHANNON RFC have been granted an extension on their appeal against a massive €25,000 fine imposed on the club after members were found to have verbally abused referee George Clancy following a recent All-Ireland League Division 1A game.
Shannon RFC had originally been given 14 days to lodge an appeal against the fine, but the IRFU have granted the club an extension until January 14 as a result of the period co-inciding with the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
On top of the hefty fine, Shannon were also hit with a suspended six-point deduction by the IRFU arising out of the incidents at Coonagh on December 5.
The €25,000 fine is to be paid to the IRFU Charitable Trust on or before March 31, 2010.
The fine and suspended points deduction relates to incidents following a controversial finish to Shannon’s All-Ireland League Division 1A clash with Cork Constitution at the start of the month.
Holders Shannon had been ahead in the game late on, but the awarding of a free-kick and a penalty to Cork Con’ in injury time angered Shannon supporters.
When Cork Con’ landed the penalty kick to win the game by a single point, 9-8, a number of Shannon supporters vented their anger at referee Clancy.
While the Limerick club did expect some form of sanction arising out of the verbal abuse suffered by the match official, they were left reeling by its severity.
While the fine of €25,000 was imposed the IRFU opted to suspend the six-point deduction as that was seen as a punishment for the players who were not at fault. The six-point deduction will come in effect if Shannon find themselves in hot water with match officials later in the season.
The Shannon PRO said the club was exploring all options with regard to an appeal.
“We will reconvene an executive meeting very early next week when all officers have returned from the Christmas break,” explained PRO Andrew McNamara.
Andrew McNamara said the club ‘have not or do not condone any form of abuse of referees.’ While they were expecting some form of sanction, they were lodging their appeal on the grounds of the severity of the fine imposed.

Colm Kinsella

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuohy joins senior hurling ticket

LIMERICK hurling supporters were heartened this week when it was announced that the highly-respected John Tuohy has joined Justin McCarthy’s senior hurling management team - Tuohy will work alongside McCarthy, Liam Garvey and Brian Ryan as a selector.

Tuohy, a Patrickswell man and principal of St. Paul’s National School (Dooradoyle), is recognised as a prominent figure on the Limerick hurling scene - he trained Bruree to the county senior hurling title in 2005 and has also guided the fortunes of his native Patrickswell.
Tuohy also enjoys inter-county experience since he guided the Offaly minor hurlers to a Leinster final while he has also taken charge of the Limerick minor hurling team.
Tuohy joins the management team as an additional selector and it is hoped that the Patrickswell man can bring his exceptional coaching, communication and motivational talents to the fore with the Limerick senior hurling team.

Senior dispute
Meanwhile County Board chairman Liam Lenihan has indicated this week that he is eager to see the entire county get behind Justin McCarthy and the Limerick senior hurling team in the New Year.
“I hope everybody can move forward together,” Liam Lenihan told Leader Sport on Tuesday.
“Mistakes have been made on both sides, but now we need to move on for the sake of Limerick hurling. A new year is coming and we hope it marks a new dawn for Limerick. I would ask people to think of Limerick above all else.”

Players views
Anyone expecting the 22 estranged members of the 2009 Limerick hurling panel to toss a hand grenade in the direction of the delegate’s decision on Thursday night last to retain the services of Justin McCarthy will this week find themselves disappointed.
Although four members of that aforementioned figure (two members of the 12 who were dropped and two members of the subsequent eight who walked away from Justin McCarthy’s revamped panel) were contacted by Leader Sport none were prepared to speak publicly about the current impasse.
Although each player contacted indicated that they were disappointed by the manner in which their views were represented by the County Board at Thursday night’s meeting no player wished to come forward and discuss their reaction to decision made by the club delegates.
At the outset of Thursday night’s meeting in Claughaun a brief synopsis of the meeting which took place on December 12 which involved 21 players, their respective club delegates and members of the County Board was delivered to the delegates.
That report reiterated the players’ determination not to play for Justin McCarthy and that they would not agree to a mediation process.
The players now feel that not all the points they made at that meeting concerning the managerial shortcomings of the management team led by Justin McCarthy were relayed to Thursday night’s meeting - the players complained about poor quality training session, fitness issues, poor man management and communication skills.
While it has been rumoured that a small number of players are now prepared to return to the panel the majority of the players are determined not to play for Limerick while McCarthy remains in charge. The players remain irritated by the fact that players were unceremoniously dropped from the panel, were not paid the courtesy of a simple phone call and that members of the panel were labelled as indisciplined.

Munster fixtures
The Munster Council have confirmed the fixtures for the intermediate hurling, junior football, minor and under-21 championships.
In the Munster intermediate hurling championship on June 20 Limerick will face either Cork or Tipperary (2pm) as a curtain-raiser to the senior team’s clash against the same opposition. The final will be played on July 22 at 7.30pm.
In the Munster junior football championship Limerick will face either Clare or Waterford on June 6 at the semi-final stage at Fraher Field or Pairc na nGael (12pm). The junior final will be played on July 8 (7.30pm).
The quarter-finals of the ESB Munster minor football championship will see Limerick face Waterford on April 14 (6.30pm) in Kilmallock - the losers of that encounter will face a play-off on April 19 while the winners will progress to the semi-finals on May 12. The final will be played on July 4.
In the ESB Munster minor hurling championship Limerick will face Kerry in Kilmallock (6.30pm) on April 28 in the quarter-finals.
The loser of that game will enter the play-offs on May 1 while the winner will face either Cork or Tipperary in the semi-finals on June 24 (7.30pm). The minor final will be played on July 11.
Limerick’s quarter-final in the Cadbury Munster under-21 football championship will take place on March 10 (7.30pm) at the Gaelic Grounds when the Shannonsiders take on Clare. The winner of that clash will face Tipperary on March 18 (7.30pm) while the final will be played on March 27.
In the Munster under-21 championship Limerick are straight through to the semi-finals when they will play Clare at the Gaelic Grounds on July 14 (7.30pm). The final is fixed for July 28 (7.30pm).

Senior football
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s Limerick senior football team will launch their McGrath Cup campaign on Sunday, January 3.
The footballers take on Waterford IT in the preliminary round of the competition with the winners set to face CIT in the quarter-finals on the following Sunday, January 10 - the game against Waterford IT has been provisionally fixed for Kilmallock but could also be played in Foynes.
Barring injuries the Limerick team to face Waterford IT is: Conor Ranahan (Ballysteen), Johnny McCarthy (St. Kieran’s), Conor Mullane (St. Senan’s), Andrew Lane (St. Senan’s), Lorcan O'Dwyer (Pallasgreen), Shane Gallagher (Ballysteen), Diarmaid Carroll (St. Senan’s), John Galvin (Croom), Eoghan Joy (Fr. Casey’s), Stephen Kelly (Newcastle West), James Ryan (Galbally), Seanie Buckley (Drom-Broadford, captain), John Mullane (St. Patrick’s), Ian Ryan (St. Senan’s), Kieran O’Callaghan (Ballylanders). Subs: Brendan Moran (Mungret), Paudie Browne (Fr. Casey’s), Stephen Lavin (Adare), Pa Ranahan (Ballysteen), Mark O’Riordan (Croom), Jim O’Donovan (St. Kieran’s), Bobby O’Brien (Bruff), Wayne Enright (St. Senan’s) & Seamus Mulcahy (Pallasgreen).

Brian McDonnell

‘We knew these results were coming’

“WE always believed. Just because we were playing badly didn’t make us a bad team. On the otherhand, I think a lot of people out there, people in the media, thought that we were.
“We were getting the usual, ‘they’re past it, they’re too old’, as happens pretty much every year now. But it never bothered us, never effected us. We knew that we believed in ourselves and we knew these results were coming.”

Munster lock Mick O’Driscoll is in philosophical mood on Christmas week. Sunday’s stunning Heineken Cup victory over USAP Perpignan in France has provided Tony McGahan’s side with a massive boost ahead of their St. Stephen’s night Magners League meeting with Connacht at Thomond Park (7.30pm).
The vastly experienced Mick O’Driscoll is hopeful the team can build on the bonus point win at the Stade Aime Giral with the inter-provincial ties against Connacht and a second fixture, away to Ulster on January 2, to come over the festive and New Year’s period.
Thirty one-year-old O’Driscoll insists that while Munster’s form had been patchy at the start of the season, there were real signs in recent weeks that the team was starting to get things right prior to last weekend’s trip to the Stade Aime Giral.
“I suppose people will think it’s an easy thing to say after the game, but we went down to Perpignan really believing that we were going to win the game,” Mick O’Driscoll said.
“I can’t say there were too many others outside of the squad who thought that could happen. To get the bonus point was massive.
“To be honest, if we had gotten four points we would have been over the moon. To get five was just fantastic.
“We started the season poorly, but we have been building. We have been getting better, slowly, but it has been coming. It has just taken time.
“We still have a long way to go, but we know that we can take confidence from the win in Perpignan. Hopefully, we can build on that and get better and better as the season goes on.
“Coming into this weekend’s game with Connacht we have a number of the international guys on active rest.
“It is a massive opportunity for everyone. As I was saying, we need to build on last weekend. Our Magners League form hasn’t been superb. The idea is to push on and get a win.”
Sixth-placed Munster will be anxious to claim a victory against Connacht - seeking their first away win over the Magners League holders in 23 years - in order to move up the Magners League table and boost their prospects of claiming a semi-final play-off spot.
Mick O’Driscoll believes centre Jean de Villiers, a try-scorer in Sunday’s bonus point win over Perpignan, will make a hugely significant contribution to the side over the coming months.
“You hear the silly rumours that are out there about Jean (de Villiers), that he is not settling in and all this sort of stuff,” Mick O’Driscoll said.
“But he has worked as hard as anyone this season. He will be the first to admit that it hasn’t gelled 100 per cent straight away. But look these things take time.
“You saw when he scored the try on Sunday that, to a man, all the team were around him. That is a great sign.
“Over the next couple of weeks hopefully, he will get good game time and his confidence will build.
“He will get into the Munster way a lot easier and hopefully he will turn out the way some of our other foreign signings have.”
Connacht, who have impressed in the Amlin Challenge Cup in recent weeks, are set to include Limerick-born hooker Sean Cronin in their squad. Cronin, an AIL medal winner with Shannon, made his full international debut for Ireland when coming on as a replacement in the autumn international with Fiji at the RDS.
Meanwhile, the Magners League Grand Final will take place on Saturday, May, 29, 2010, with a provisional kick-off of 6.30pm.

Colm Kinsella

Marcus Horan returns to training

MUNSTER have received a significant boost ahead of the St. Stephen’s Day Magners League clash against Connacht with the return of experienced international prop Marcus Horan to full training.
It is now hoped that Horan will resume competitive action in mid-January in time for Munster’s round five Heineken Cup pool match away to Benetton Treviso.
Munster manager Shaun Payne said Horan continued to do ‘remarkably’ well following a routine medical procedure in early November.

Payne said: “Marcus is back in full training now and we will see how he deals with that.
“We are not going to be pushing anything unduly at this stage. We are hoping if everything goes according to plan, he will be available for the Treviso game.”
Munster will be without seven of their Irish internationals for the December 26 meeting with Connacht. The front-line players are having a week of ‘active rest’ after being involved in up to six big games over the past eight weeks.
Out-half Ronan O’Gara is included in the 27-strong squad named for the clash with Michael Bradley’s Connacht, however.
Shaun Payne explained: “As you are aware, as agreed with national management, in phase two of the season, running up to Six Nations, there are a group of players who are only allowed play six out of eight games. I think John Hayes may have played one less than six, but this is a week which has been earmarked as an active rest week. Obviously Ronan O’Gara, much to his disappointment, hasn’t had the same workload as some of the other guys and he is included in the squad for the game with Connacht. Ronan’s momentum is building nicely. He is playing very well and I felt he was outstanding at the weekend. He actually needs the game time.”
O’Gara is likely to feature in the starting line-up for the Thomond Park clash, the first of two inter-provincials Munster will be involved in over the Festive and New Year period. Jerry Flannery remains on course to make his return in the away Heineken Cup tie with Treviso in the middle of next month.
While Munster haven’t lost at home to Connacht for more than two decades, Payne is expecting the Westerners, boosted by back-to-back wins over English side Worcester in the Amlin Challenge Cup, to provide a stern examination on St Stephen’s night.
“I don’t think I had one easy game against Connacht when I was playing. I have been involved in management for two years and it is never easy against them,” Shaun Payne said.
“It is usually around this time of the year that we play them. Nothing is going to be taken for granted. Connacht are always well up for the game. It is an inter-pro. It is always an unbelievably tough game.
“They have been in really decent form recently and recorded some excellent results in the Amlin Challenge Cup. They will be confident and up for it. We will be for it as well. We lost in Galway around this time last year.
“There are a number of players in our squad who will be itching to play this week. Ian Dowling has had a tough time with selection and he is bursting for a game. The same applies to the likes of Felix Jones. It is a massive opportunity for these guys to lay down a marker.”

Munster squad v Connacht: Darragh Hurley, Wian du Preez, Julien Brugnaut, Denis Fogarty, Damien Varley, Mike Sherry, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, Nick Williams, James Coughlan, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter Stringer, Duncan Williams, Ronan O’Gara, Paul Warwick, Jean de Villiers, Lifeimi Mafi, Tom Gleeson, Ian Dowling, Doug Howlett, Felix Jones, Denis Hurley, Scott Deasy.

Colm Kinsella

Last two rounds in pool one now finalised

MUNSTER will complete their programme of pool games in this season’s Heineken Cup against the Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on Friday, January 22, six days after the two-time winners face Benetton Treviso in a crunch round five tie in Italy.
Pool one table-toppers Munster can take a massive step towards securing their place in the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup for a 12th straight season with victory over Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Communale di Monigo on Saturday, January 16.
The game will begin at 1.35pm Irish time and will be televised live on Sky Sports.
Munster will then have a six-day turnaround before a potentially decisive pool match against the second-placed Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on Friday, January 22. The game will have an 8pm kick-off time.
A decision on whether the match will be televised live by Sky Sports will be made once the round five ties are completed.
However, as the Thomond Park game and the clash between USAP Perpignan and Benetton Treviso, which will not have any impact on which sides qualify for the quarter-finals are the only Heineken Cup pool games fixed to take place on Friday, January, 22 it seems safe to assume that the Limerick fixture will be broadcast live by Sky Sports.

Colm Kinsella

Ferris is confident that Racing Festival will go ahead

LIMERICK Racecourse general manager Russell Ferris was confident this Tuesday that the cold snap would end in time to allow the festival go ahead as scheduled - weather forecasters are predicting that the weather will get milder from Christmas Day on.

“The weather forecast is predicting that it will get milder later in the week and we should be fine for racing. We are very positive at this stage,” Russell Ferris said.
“There is a small scattering of snow on the track at the moment. All the fences have been covered, as have the take off and landing areas at each fence. The going at the moment is ‘soft to heavy’.”
Limerick Racecourse has not lost a single day’s racing at Christmas since the track opened at Greenmount Park in 2001.
Limerick-based trainers will again send powerful raiding parties to Greenmount Park in the hope of keeping a large portion of the €400,000 prize money on offer at the four-day Guinness Christmas Racing Festival close to home.
Limerick Racecourse will host Munster’s biggest racing festival and one of the annual highlights of the local sporting and social calendar when the four-day National Hunt racing bonanza is staged at the Patrickswell track from December 26 to 29.
The Guinness Christmas Festival of Racing traditionally attracts a crowd of 40,000 patrons and provides rich pickings for locally-based trainers. Local trainers sent out no fewer than nine winners at the 2008 festival.
Rathkeale handler Eric McNamara continued his excellent strike rate at his local track saddling two winners last December. McNamara is a trainer worth watching at Greenmount as he claimed the top trainer award at the 2005 and 2007 festivals when sending out four winners on each occasion.
Michael Hourigan, who trains within a short distance of the Patrickswell track, also boasts a terrific record at the highly competitive Christmas holiday festival at Limerick Racecourse. In both 2002 and 2003, Hourigan enjoyed his most successful Christmas meetings at Greenmount, saddling a magnificent haul of five winners on each occasion. His tally of wins included an opening day treble in 2002. Hourigan also recorded a fine double at the 2006 fixture.
St. Stephen’s Day is traditionally the biggest day of the Christmas holiday festival, boasting a prize fund of €128,500. The feature race is the €50,000 Grade 2 Guinness Greenmount Park Novice Steeplechase.
Leading trainer Willie Mullins teamed up with jockey David Casey to land the big prize with 9/2 shot Financial Reward 12 months ago.
The €31,500 Grade C Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Steeplechase takes centre stage on December 27, while the €30,500 Grade 3 Freeman Keane Doran’s Pride Novice Hurdle is the feature race on the third day of the Festival.
Racing concludes on December 29, when the highlights of an attractive seven-race card will include an exciting Hunters Chase.
A big screen in the main enclosure at the track will be showing the big Christmas racing highlights in Ireland and the UK, including the King George from Kempton at St. Stephen’s Day as well as all the top class action from Leopardstown.
Live musical entertainment will be provided after racing in the Munster Suite on both December 26 and 28. A DJ from Spin South West will keep racegoers entertained when spinning the discs in the Munster Suite after the final race is run on December 27.
Free car parking is available at Greenmount Park for 2,000 vehicles or alternatively racegoers can avail of a new bus service provided by Hynan Coaches which will operate from Limerick city, including pick-up points on O’Connell Street, O’Connell Avenue, Crescent Shopping Centre and Raheen Industrial Estate. The bus is due to run to Thomond Park in December 26 and the return fare is €5.
Racing gets underway each day at 12.30pm. General admission is priced at €25 for St. Stephen’s Day or for €20 if booked online in advance while senior citizens and students can avail of a concession rate of €15. The entrance cost is €20 on both December 27 and 28, with €10 for concessions. General admission is priced at €15 on December 29, while senior citizens and students can gain entry for €10.

Colm Kinsella

Attention turns to Connacht

HIGH-Flying Munster switch their focus back to the ‘bread-and-butter’ of the Magners League on St. Stephen’s Day when the holders host Connacht at Thomond Park in the first of two inter-provincial fixtures over the festive period (7.30pm).
Saturday’s fixture comes just six days after Munster’s heroic bonus point victory over French champions USAP Perpignan in the Heineken Cup at the Stade Aime Giral which saw Tony McGahan’s men take control of pool one.
Munster’s big name Irish international stars are set to be absent for the St. Stephen’s Day clash with Connacht in Limerick as a result of their hectic playing schedule over the past couple of months in the Magners League, Heineken Cup and the autumn internationals. However, the likes of captain Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Donncha O’Callaghan, John Hayes, Denis Leamy, Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary and Keith Earls are set to return to the squad for the tricky January 2 meeting with Ulster.
Despite the absence of the front-line Irish internationals for the Connacht clash, Munster will be able to field a strong line-up with former Connacht star Paul Warwick and Peter Stringer likely to form the half-back pairing, Jean de Villiers and Lifeimi Mafi in line to fill the centre positions, Denis Hurley at full-back and Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling on the wings. In the pack, Darragh Hurley, Denis Fogarty and Tony Buckley could form the front-row while Mick O’Driscoll and Donnacha Ryan look the most likely second row combination. The back row could feature the likes of Niall Ronan, Nick Williams, James Coughlan and Tommy O’Donnell.
Munster and Connacht shared the spoils in the Magners League encounters between the two last season, but the Westerners have not won on Munster soil since an 11-9 victory at Thomond Park in the Interprovincial Championship on November 22, 1986.
Sixth-placed Munster will be anxious to claim a victory in order to move up the Magners League table and boost their prospects of claiming a semi-final play-off spot.
The Munstermen’s only win in their last four Magners League matches was 24-10 at home to Ulster on October 31. While McGahan’s men have struggled somewhat away from home in the Magners League, the province’s home record is impressive and includes victories in their last 12 home games in all competitions.
Connacht’s only previous away win over a fellow Irish province in the Magners League came in Leinster way back on September 13, 2002.
While recent history may be against them Connacht will also approach the St. Stephen’s Day clash in confident mood.
Michael Bradley’s men have won three of their last four matches in all competitions including back-to-back victories over English Premiership outfit Worcester Warriors in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Connacht are set to include Limerick-born hooker Sean Cronin in their squad for the game. Cronin, an AIL medal winner with Shannon, made his full international debut for Ireland when coming on as a replacement in the autumn international with Fiji at the RDS.
Thomond Park is expected to be full to capacity for the visit of Connacht. More than 20,000 tickets have already been sold for the fixture and the excitement generated by Sunday’s hugely-impressive victory over Perpignan in France looks set to ensure the game is a sell-out.
Meanwhile it has been announced that the Magners League Grand Final will take place on Saturday, May, 29, 2010 with a provisional kick-off of 6.30pm.
The venue for the Grand Final will be determined by the final finishing positions of the four semi-finalists in their regular league campaign.

Colm Kinsella

Monday, December 21, 2009

Axel Foley inspired Munster to bonus-point success in France

David Wallace has revealed that some timely advice from former Heineken Cup-winning captain Anthony Foley proved the inspiration behind Munster’s dramatic bonus-point win against Perpignan at the Stade Aime Giral.

Magnificent Munster claimed a precious pre-Christmas bonus when bagging a maximum five-point haul from their trip to France yesterday.
The win has propelled Munster into the driving seat in pool one of the Heineken Cup, two points clear of the Northampton Saints.
Munster became only the third team in Heineken Cup history to defeat French champions Perpignan at the Stade Aime Giral when recording a runaway 37-14 victory.
Afterwards Munster flanker David Wallace said that a few words of encouragement from the team’s technical advisor Anthony Foley after the side had scored their third try proved the catalyst for Doug Howlett’s crucial bonus-point clinching touchdown.
David Wallace explained to Sky Sports: “Anthony Foley came on after we scored the third try and as only Axel can, he focused the minds. He told us to just go after the bonus point because we were in a great position.
“The way the game was going it had become a lot looser and it could have gone either way with a pass. It had become almost 7s like.
“But it was our attitude, reacting to the ball first, that probably forced the turnover which led to the fourth try.”
Veteran Wallace said the team had remained confident that such an outstanding display wasn’t so far away despite the lacklustre displays of recent times.
“It was as good an away Munster performance as I can remember. We played well,” Wallace said.
“We have been struggling and stuttering for a bit.
“We knew we were very close, but still had to put the final touches to things. We came down here with a great attitude and managed to maintain it for the full game.
“We knew coming to France that we have to put teams under pressure. We needed to be relentless.
“Up front we wanted to work hard and tire them out. I felt we did that to great effect in the first half.
“They got a bit of momentum back towards the end of the first half, but we came out in the second and kept it going for the full 40 minutes and got the bonus point at the end.
“The breakdown went well for us.
“Overall, I felt it was a one to 15 effort from us. The key for us was to put them under pressure in all areas of the pitch.”
Delighted Munster coach Tony McGahan described the victory as the best away success he had seen during his time with the province.
“It was the best away win of my time as Munster coach. We hope there are a few more in us. I am absolutely delighted for the players,” Tony McGahan told Sky Sports.
“Perpignan is a tough place to come and to leave with a bonus point, it was absolutely outstanding.
“In the dressing room we have been talking about all the values we hold dear at Munster and really the players who have left the legacy for the team this year from this particular game.
“We felt that over the past few weeks it really has been coming together. We have been training very well on the training pitch. Today was certainly an opportunity, backs-against-the-wall, to put it all together. That brings out the best in us.
“The breakdown was key and it always is. They are an excellent side. Once they get a run they can do anything, but we held strong.”
Meanwhile on the club front Garryowen set up an AIB Cup final meeting with Munster rivals Cork Constitution at Dubarry Park, Athlone on January 30 after securing an impressive 16-9 semi-final win over Dolphin at Musgrave Park on Saturday.


Board aim to build bridges with eight players

THE Limerick County Board plan to write a letter to eight players (Damien Reale, James Ryan, Brian Geary, Donal O’Grady, James O’Brien, Wayne McNamara, Seamus Hickey and Brian Murray) in the hope that they will reverse their decision to walk away from inter-county hurling.

All eight walked away in protest following Justin McCarthy’s decision to drop 12 players from his 2009 panel citing disciplinary reasons for that cull.
This latest development follows Thursday night’s County Board meeting in Claughaun when club delegates passed a vote of confidence in Justin McCarthy’s management team - the delegates and the executive officers of the County Board voted by 70-54 (secret ballot) in favour of retaining the management team of Justin McCarthy, Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey.
Those attending that meeting were clear in the knowledge that the vote would mean that many of the county’s top hurlers would not be making themselves available for 2010 if the current management remained in place.
After the result was made known the chairman, Liam Lenihan, made a brief statement: “It is very important that we all accept the decision and go forward together”.
When the eagerly-awaited meeting commenced chairman Liam Lenihan proposed a vote of confidence.
“Having discussed the matter at a management meeting of the County Board we as a management committee are recommending to the county committee that the senior hurling management team appointed in 2008 for two years be allowed to complete their term,” explained Lenihan.
The proposal was backed by Limerick GAA treasurer Owen Hayes and Timmy O’Connor of Na Piarsaigh.
“It would be very easy to do the sneaky thing and wait for someone to propose a vote of no confidence and that would take a two-third majority to remove them, but we are proposing a vote of confidence which requires just a simple majority.”
Most of the club delegates were present two weeks earlier at the first special County Board meeting in Ballyagran when the hurling management addressed the meeting.
However only the delegates of the respective clubs of the players were present when the players addressed a meeting in Claughaun on December 13.
“Unfortunately the players would not agree to sit down and talk to the senior hurling management or neither would they agree to a mediator,” said the chairman.
“We have to decide for once and for all who is running the county,” he said.
“Unfortunately in Limerick we have had too many managers - from 2003 to 2009 we have had five and in my own personal opinion we cannot continue down that road.
“We have got to lay down a marker for once and for all, what direction do we want the county to go.”
Timmy O’Connor (Na Piarsaigh) spoke passionately at the meeting: “Let’s call a spade a spade - there are high profile players that seem to be leading this. It saddens me that the pressure the younger players are been put under by certain individuals”.
However Ahane’s Donal Morrissey had a clever analogy: “The performance of the players throughout last year is not a reflection of the players, but a reflection of the management team. If an entire class fail their exams, is that a reflection of the class or the teacher,” he said.
He reported from the meeting with the players that “there are no circumstances under any conditions that the players will play under any of the present management - that is the clear message that the players sent. There is a complete breakdown of confidence and trust and communication - vital ingredients in any set-up,” added Morrissey.
“The decision we are making is not to get rid of Justin McCarthy or not - I am all in favour of making a stand, but you make a stand when you know you are going to win the war. We are making a stand tonight to win a battle, but we are not making any stand to win a war. If we go out of here tonight and retain Justin McCarthy, we are going to be playing division two hurling next year. If the top table know something that I don’t know I’d really like to hear it. If someone can tell me that the retention of Justin McCarthy and proceeding in the absence of the players who left the panel and who were dropped will lead Limerick hurling to a better place in five years time then someone knows something that I don’t know.”


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

McCarthy will address delegates

Chairman Liam Lenihan has confirmed that county senior hurling manager Justin McCarthy will address Thursday night’s County Board meeting in Ballyagran while McCarthy will also be expected to field questions from the floor.

“The delegates obviously have some questions to ask and they are obviously entitled to answers,” Liam Lenihan told Leader Sport on Wednesday morning.
“Justin (McCarthy) is the manager of the county senior hurling team and as manager he has to account for himself and his actions.”
Liam Lenihan is hopeful the meeting will help to clear the air and bring an end to the speculation that has surrounded Limerick hurling recently.
“How the meeting goes is totally up to the clubs,” the chairman said.
“As you know yourself any club delegate is entitled to get up and propose anything and then it’s down to the other delegates to vote on that.
“The whole idea of the meeting is to get this sorted out.
“The delegates have had time to consult with their clubs.
“Clubs have held their own meetings about this and we are hopeful that delegates will bring the views of their clubs to the meeting. This is the forum for them to do that and we’re hopeful that they will. It’s up to the delegates to make their feelings known and we hope that they will.
“We hope that the meeting is a positive one and that the delegates get a chance to express the views of the clubs and then, hopefully, we can work on from there. Now we have a chance to put an end to all the speculation and move forward from there.”
The meeting will take place in the Ballyagran Community Centre and is scheduled to begin at 7.30pm on Thursday night (December 3).
The meeting has been convened to discuss the crisis surrounding the Limerick senior hurling panel and for delegates to vote on the ‘GAA/GPA proposal’ - like every other county in the country Limerick must discuss the proposed alignment of the GPA and GAA and decide to agree or disagree with the proposal before a meeting of Central Council on Saturday, December 5 in Croke Park.

Players views
On Thursday night last (November 26) the County Board (represented by chairman Liam Lenihan, secretary Mike O’Riordan and treasurer Owen Hayes) met with members of the 2009 hurling panel to discuss the fall out from Justin McCarthy’s wholesale changes to the senior hurling squad - McCarthy dropped 12 players while a further eight walked out in protest.
Last week 2007 All-Star goalkeeper Brian Murray withdrew while the Patrickswell man was preceded by Brian Geary, Damien Reale, Seamus Hickey, Donal O’Grady, Wayne McNamara, James O’Brien and James Ryan.
This week County Board chairman Liam Lenihan described that meeting as “open and frank” and that the County Board executive will convey the views of the players to Thursday night’s meeting in Ballyagran.
“We had an open and frank meeting on Thursday night,” Liam Lenihan told Leader Sport on Monday.
“We got our views on the situation across and they got their views across. We will now convey those views to Thursday night’s meeting and move on from there.”
The County Board executive officers were forced to meet with the players when members of the 2009 panel refused to meet with Justin McCarthy and his management team.
Reports suggest that anything up to 23 players attended that meeting.

Meeting held in camera
The starting time, originally 6.30pm, and the venue for the meeting raised eyebrows across the county, but County Board officials have now moved the meeting back to 7.30pm to allow delegates sufficient time to reach the venue - the Limerick executive insist that they planned the meeting to co-incide with the launch of the Limerick GAA Yearbook which takes place in Mark Foley’s Bar later that evening in Ballyagran (9.30pm).
In an extraordinary departure the special County Board meeting will be held in camera - members of the press will not be permitted to attend.
Limerick GAA chairman Liam Lenihan confirmed to Leader Sport last week that an executive meeting of County Board officers had taken the decision to exclude members of the media from the meeting in Ballyagran.
Earlier last week former Limerick GAA chairman Denis Holmes led the calls for the scheduling of a County Board meeting to discuss the latest saga to engulf Limerick hurling.
At the annual convention of the East Board in Ahane chairman Denis Holmes said that the clubs of the county needed to be heard.

Mickey Ned O’Sullivan
Although not originally on the agenda for the meeting Limerick GAA officials will also take the opportunity of the County Board meeting to finally confirm Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as Limerick’s senior football manager for a fifth year.
At a meeting of Limerick’s Football Board on October 26 the reappointment of Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as county football manager moved a step closer when the Kerryman was given the backing of the football delegates.
However the appointment for a further one-year term still needs to be rubber-stamped at a full County Board meeting.
Returning alongside the Kenmare man will be coach Donie Buckley and selectors Joe Redington and Paddy Ivess. Joining the senior backroom team for 2010 is Maurice Horan.
The former Mayo and Limerick senior footballer is to become a senior selector and manager of the county under-21 side. Horan transferred to Monaleen in 2004 from his native Ballinrobe. As manager of the county under-21 side Maurice Horan will be joined by selectors Niall Crowley (Adare) and John Ryan (Oola).

Annual Convention
The Limerick GAA Annual Convention will also take place in Caherconlish on Monday, December 7 next.
As previously confirmed by Leader Sport full-time secretary Mike O’Riordan has been deemed ineligible to stand for election as one of the county’s two delegates to Munster Council. A ruling from Croke Park means that there will now be no election for the position of Munster Council delegate. Mike O’Riordan was initially one of five nominated to fill the two delegate positions. However, as a full-time paid official of Limerick GAA, it was unknown if he was eligible to stand for the position. A Croke Park ruling has now forced the Kilmallock man to withdraw from the election. Donal Fitzgibbon and Eddie Wade have also confirmed that they are not to stand for election meaning that Oliver Mann (Patrickswell) and Denis Holmes (Oola) will be Limerick’s new representatives on the provincial council.
There will, however, still be an election for PRO as both Ger O’Connell (Pallasgreen) and Helen Cross (Ahane) remain in the race for the job.
One position that won’t be filled at the Annual Convention is that of Development Officer.
Earlier this month it was confirmed by Croke Park that Tim Ryan could not fill the vacant position. Eibhear O’Dea steps down from the role next month, but as Tim Ryan has already served in the position for five years, he has been deemed ineligible by Croke Park. As Ryan was the only nominee for the role, nominations will have to be re-opened and a Development Officer will be appointed in January. County Board chairman Liam Lenihan has confirmed that the closing date for nominations for the role of Development Officer is December 14. On December 15 the names of those nominated for the position will be circulated to the clubs. On January 12 a ‘Special Convention’ will be held at which delegates will be asked to vote for their preferred candidate.

Brian McDonnell

Munster face three crucial games

MUNSTER begin a crucial three-game phase in their season this Saturday when Tony McGahan’s men tackle the Ospreys in a key Magners League tie at the Liberty Stadium (6.30pm).

This weekend’s tie will be Munster’s first competitive game for five weeks as the league went into hibernation during the autumn internationals.
Magners League holders Munster currently lie in fifth place in the League table, one spot outside a semi-final play off place.
However, the ultra tight nature of the competition is highlighted by the fact that the four sides placed between second and fifth all have 19 points and are only separated by mere points’ difference.
Munster have won their last four games against the Ospreys in all competitions, including a 25-21 victory on their most recent visit to the Liberty Stadium in January of this year.
Munster’s 24-10 Halloween win over Ulster, in their most recent outing in the competition, ended a two-game losing run for the Magners League champions.
Munster have lost five of their last six away games, but boast an impressive record against Welsh opposition, winning 13 of their last 14 encounters against them.
Saturday’s opponents, the Ospreys, are currently seventh in the Magners League table, two points beneath Munster.
This weekend’s clash is the first of three major fixtures Munster face prior to Christmas.
Tony McGahan’s men will host French champions USA Perpignan in a key Heineken Cup pool match at Thomond Park on Friday, December 11 (8pm). Munster travel to the Stade Aime Giral for the return game nine days later on Sunday, December 20.
The Munster team spent two days in a training camp in Ballykisteen, Co Tipperary this week as part of their preparations for this weekend’s Round 8 Magners League tie.
Munster coach Tony McGahan faces some big selection decisions ahead of Saturday night’s clash with the Ospreys.
The Munster supremo will have to decide about how many ‘front line’ players he should give game time to ahead of the crucial Heineken Cup pool games against USA Perpignan.
the Munster players were introduced to newest arrival in the squad, Springboks’ prop Wian du Preez this week. Du Preez has joined the Irish province on a three-month contract until the end of the pool stages of the Heineken Cup in January.
The South African comes in to help shore up the loose head position. Encouragingly the news on one of the players he is covering for, Marcus Horan, is positive in that he has resumed light training after undergoing a successful medical procedure.
The Ospreys must plan without exciting international winger Shane Williams for this weekend’s game with confirmation that he will be ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a torn hamstring.
Williams, the Ospreys all-time leading try scorer, limped out of Wales’s defeat to Australia at the weekend after pulling up in the opening stages,
With the region’s three named Heineken Cup nines all ruled out with injury, the Ospreys completed the signing of South African scrum-half Ricky Januarie last week on a short term loan, registering him as their one additional player allowed under Heineken Cup tournament rules.
Welsh international, Mike Phillips is currently recovering from a serious ankle injury, while Jamie Nutbrown has damaged posterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament damage.

Colm Kinsella

McGahan agrees two-year deal

TONY McGahan has expressed his delight at the announcement that his tenure as Munster rugby coach is set to be extended by a further two seasons.
Munster Rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald has confirmed that McGahan will continue in his role as Director of Coaching until the end of the 2011-2012 season.
Thirty-seven-year-old McGahan took over from Declan Kidney at the start of last season having joined the Munster set-up in February 2005 as defence coach.
McGahan’s role was expanded to defence, backs and skills coach when Munster won Heineken Cup titles in 2006 and 2008.
The announcement comes in the week in which Australian-born McGahan welcomes back Ireland and Ireland A squad members into the Munster squad ahead of crunch Magners League and Heineken Cup ties. The Munster squad are holding a two-day training camp in Tipperary this week as they step up preparations for next Saturday’s clash with the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium and the back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures against Perpignan.
Tony McGahan said: “I’m very pleased to be remaining on here at Munster for the next number of seasons. It’s been a privilege to be involved with a group of players, management and officials such as are involved in Munster.
“I’m really looking forward to the immediate future with crucial Magners League and Heineken Cup games in the offing, but I’m also delighted, both personally and professionally, to be remaining in Munster in the short-term.”
Commenting on the re-appointment Garrett Fitzgerald said they were delighted to have come to an agreement with Tony McGahan for the immediate future.
“Tony has shown, in his short space of time as a head coach, that he has all the attributes to keep Munster Rugby to the forefront of the international club game while at the same time ensuring players have the required skill sets for the international game.
“We have already enjoyed considerable success in the course of his short tenure and we believe that Munster Rugby can only continue to prosper under his direction.”
This week’s training camp in Tipperary will co-incide with the arrival of Springbok prop Wian du Preez in Munster. Du Preez has been signed on a three-month contract which runs until the end of the Heineken Cup pool matches in January.
The Springbok prop comes in to shore up the loose-head position. Encouragingly, the news on one of the players he’s covering for, Marcus Horan, is good.
The experienced Marcus Horan has resumed light training after a successful medical procedure.

Colm Kinsella

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

‘It’s a daunting challenge, but that’s what makes it so great’

Seán McGowan, a father of four, will this weekend attempt to overcome one of the world’s greatest individual sporting challenges when he takes part in the 2009 Woodvale Atlantic Row Race and endeavours to become the first Irishman to row solo across the Atlantic.

On Sunday next, December 6, Seán McGowan will begin his journey from the Canary Islands and then slowly, but surely make his way across 2,500 nautical miles, which could take up to 100 days, before finally arriving at Antigua in the Caribbean.
Rowing across the Atlantic represents the fulfillment of a personal dream for the 41-year-old man who is originally from Farranshore, but who now lives in Raheen with wife Lorraine and four children, Rachel, Daniel, Patrick and Chloe.
An engineer by trade Seán was a senior manager with Dell for several years before joining business consultants Prodigium.
For the past two years Seán has trained relentlessly for the challenge ahead, but now, with his departure just days away, he’s a little edgy.
“At this stage I’m looking forward to it, but I am a little bit anxious,” Seán told Leader Sport.
“The family arrived this morning (Monday, November 30) and while it is great to see them it has been a bit emotional. I will spend some time with them, but it is going to be difficult to leave them on Sunday.
“The kids are okay about the whole thing. They are more excited about it than anything else. It’s more difficult for my wife Lorraine. Lorraine is nervous, she’s supportive, but she’s anxious as well. On Sunday it is sure to be terribly emotional.
“I have tried to prepare myself for that. I’ve heard about the hardest of men breaking down as they leave the harbour so that will be a test.”
Seán joined Shannon Rowing Club at the age of 14, but he didn’t become fixated with rowing across the Atlantic until 1997 when Arklow’s Eamonn and Peter Kavanagh became the first Irishmen to successfully row across that vast expanse of water.
Only 153 people have managed the feat that Seán McGowan is about to attempt.
“I certainly am attempting to join a very exclusive club,” Seán added.
“It’s a daunting challenge, but that’s what makes it so great. You talk to some sailors and they say it’s a crazy thing to attempt, but I’ve tried to reduce the risk involved.
“Like anything it’s a challenge. You have a choice - you either walk away from a challenge or you meet it and beat it. There are always two ways to look at things. You can either get depressed about things or you can take life on. You have to stand up and get on with things. You have to move on. For some people it’s a challenge to get up in the morning. This is the challenge I have dreamed about. You must break down a challenge into smaller pieces. That’s what I’m trying to do. You start off and you eat the elephant, bite by bite. If you persevere you can do anything. That’s what I believe.”
Seán McGowan’s vessel (christened ‘Tess’ in honour of the late Tess O’Connor, a close friend of the family), is 24-feet long, at its broadest point is six-feet wide and weighs a tonne. Seán will sleep in a cabin at the stern (back) while two solar panels will power a desalination unit which will provide the Limerickman with fresh water. Seán McGowan will carry 100 days of food in ration packs while his boat is also equipped with a VHF radio, two satellite phones and a radar system to alert other crafts to his position.
Seán knows that he faces a treacherous journey which poses a very real threat to his personal safety.
“The threat to my personal safety is something I have to think about. It would be silly not to,” Seán admitted.
“I’ve got to prepare and mitigate against the possibility of the worst happening. I’ve done all the training and I know what to do if the worst happens. I know there will be times when I will face big seas and that the boat could go over. The boat is designed to self-right itself unless the hatch is open, but if the worst does happen I will be ready.”
Seán McGowan will be at the mercy of the ocean, 30-60ft waves and the elements and while he will also ask his body to get through the equivalent of four marathons a day the biggest challenge the Limerickman will face is a mental one.
“Even in training there were huge highs and lows,” Seán McGowan explained this week.
“My journey across the Atlantic will be the same. If you think about the highs too much then the lows will be even greater. I’ve got to try and take the emotion out of it and break my task down into steps.
“It’s like a book. A book starts with a capital letter, then a word, then a sentence, then a paragraph, then a page and then a chapter. That’s the way to look at it. Take it step by step and make it a mechanical exercise. If I allow emotion to take control of me it could take a lot out of me and I can’t allow that to happen.”
Seán McGowan hopes to raise one million rand (€80,000) for the Soweto Connection, a charity founded by UL lecturers Sheila Killian and John Lannon which aims to build a nutrition centre for families in South Africa.
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McIlroy and Westwood sign up for JP McManus Pro-Am

IRISH golf sensation Rory McIlroy and European number one Lee Westwood have confirmed their participation in next year’s JP McManus Invitational Golf Pro-Am at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort.

Twenty-year-old McIlroy, the hottest young property in professional golf, and Westwood will be joined in Adare on July 5 and 6, 2010 by English duo Paul Casey and Ian Poulter it was confirmed this week.
The quartet, currently ranked in the world’s top 14, will tee it up alongside world number one Tiger Woods and Ireland’s three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington.
Harrington, the world ranked number five who won this event in 2005, had previously committed to playing in the Pro-Am.
The Pro-Am, which has a prize fund of €1 million is comprised of 54 teams of four players, three amateurs and a professional, competing over two days. A record number of overseas and Irish people are expected to visit Limerick to enjoy the golf and the atmosphere. The aim of the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am is to support mid-west charities and groups in their work with the underprivileged and the disadvantaged.
All proceeds are donated in their entirety towards the development of these services and over €55 million has been raised since its inception in 1990. Once again, the beneficiary charities are organising pre-qualifying tournaments throughout the country in a bid to enter teams in the Invitational Pro-Am.
Confirmation that Rory McIlroy, who finished only his second full season on the PGA European Tour as Europe’s number two will play in Adare, is sure to swell attendances in Adare.
The 20-year-old from Hollywood, Co Down won his first professional title in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic and underlined his huge potential with a third place finish in the US PGA Championship. McIlroy is currently ranked 10th in the official world rankings. McIlroy and partner Graeme McDowell finished runners-up to Italian brothers, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup tournament in China last week.
Thirty-six-year-old Westwood, the world’s number four ranked golfer, topped the PGA European Tour’s Order of Merit in 2009 in a season when he was a two-time winner on tour.
Commenting on the announcement JP McManus said: “We are delighted that players of such high calibre have agreed to give up their time to play in the Pro-Am. Given their high world rankings, Lee, Paul and Ian are a great addition to the event and we hope they will attract great crowds to Adare next July.
“For the first time spectators will have the pleasure to witness the skills of Rory McIlroy who, since turning professional in September 2007, has risen to 10th in the world rankings.”
For next July’s Pro-Am, spectators can choose from one of eight different coloured ‘two day entrance caps’ representing Ireland, Munster Rugby and each of the Munster counties. At a cost of €50 each the cap can be purchased on the website on or at selected retail outlets.