Thursday, January 28, 2010

Munster linked with Tigers’ Johne Murphy

MUNSTER Rugby has been linked with a move for Leicester Tigers’ in-form winger Johne Murphy.
Twenty-five-year-old Murphy has made a real success of his move to Leicester Tigers, establishing himself as a winger-cum-full-back of high regard since making his Guinness Premiership debut in 2006.


Kildare-born Murphy has made 92 appearances for the Tigers and has scored 27 tries during a successful stint at Welford Road.
Tigers’ top try-scorer in 2008-09 with 11, including a Heineken Cup hat-trick against Treviso, Murphy has made 28 appearances for the club in each of the last two seasons. The former Lansdowne player has bagged four tries for Leicester this season and his excellent run of form has seen him included in Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the upcoming RBS Six Nations Championship.
Murphy was this week also named in the Ireland A squad for Sunday’s clash with the England Saxons at the Recreation Grounds, Bath.
It was reported earlier in the season that Munster were about to lure another Irish-born winger, Tommy Bowe, back home. However, Lions star Bowe opted to sign a new contract with the Ospreys.

Colm Kinsella

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bright future?

THE three-week countdown to Limerick’s National Hurling League is underway as Justin McCarthy continues his quest to unearth fresh talent before finalising a 30-man panel.
Preparations continue this Thursday night when Limerick play IT Tralee in Staker Wallace’s ground in Martinstown and it is hoped that another challenge game can be confirmed for Saturday evening in the Gaelic Grounds.
To date McCarthy and selectors; Brian Ryan, Liam Garvey and John Tuohy have used 45 players in games against UCC, Blackrock and Wexford.


On Thursday a number of Limerick players will get a chance to impress McCarthy when they line out for the Kerry college - Nicky Quaid and Michael Rea (Effin), Mark Deegan (Hospital-Herbertstown), Eoin O’Brien (Kildimo), Eoin Ryan (Kilmallock), Mikey Kiely (Ballybrown) and James Riordan (Templeglantine).
One player than won’t be involved in the coming months is David Breen - the Na Piarsaigh man withdrew from the panel to concentrate on his studies, but is expected to return to the panel later this year.
That means just five players (Paudie McNamara, Graeme Mulcahy, Bryan O’Sullivan, Paul Browne, Dave Moloney) from the 2009 panel will remain when Limerick open their NHL campaign on February 21 against Galway in the Gaelic Grounds.
The following Saturday Limerick face Cork under the lights of the Gaelic Grounds - Setanta Sport have confirmed that game as part of their live broadcast schedule.
Limerick’s competitive season commenced last Sunday in the Waterford Crystal Cup.
“There was great spirit there, great commitment and great intensity there, but you could see that the college had a lot of work put in and there touch and team work was that bit better,” said Justin McCarthy after the 0-19 to 2-9 defeat at the hands of UCC in Kilmallock’s Fitzgerald Park.
“I was pleased and the two goals were great and we had a couple of near misses as well.”
Despite all the off-field turmoil McCarthy said that he was having no difficulty preparing for the NHL.
“It’s hurling in the end so there is no difficulty. I just love the game and the lads are mad for training and they really get stuck in and we have no problems with fellas coming in,” said the embattled Limerick manager who refused to comment about any issues other than the game itself. Justin McCarthy also said that the performance against the Cork students was “very encouraging”.
“We have a lot of work to do, but they are young and they are very enthusiastic and I love their spirit and that is very important.
“They were all very committed and that is the main thing and if you look at UCC Bryan O’Sullivan was their best and he will be back with us,” said Justin McCarthy.
If McCarthy was unwilling to comment on the current impasse with 12 members of the 2009 panel selector John Tuohy was equally brief.
“I’m still in contact with them and we will see what happens in the future,” said the Patrickswell man, who is currently acting as a mediator with the 12 withdrawn players.
“The door is open,” he stressed.

Jerome O’Connell

Kilmallock appoint Tony Considine

Former Clare senior hurling manager Tony Considine has been appointed as Kilmallock manager for 2010.
The ex-Banner boss was confirmed for The Balbec role this Monday night.
Just five years ago Considine guided Kilmallock rivals Garryspillane to a historic first county title.
Now the Cratloe native takes charge of a club that are seeking a first county title since 1994 and have seen a wealth of underage talent win the last four county under-21A hurling crowns.
Last season Kilmallock suffered elimination at the earliest hurdle after defeats to Patrickswell and Doon.
Considine replaces former Limerick minor hurling manager Peter Finn and comes to the Kilmallock job after two seasons with Tipperary club, Burgess.
Considine’s former star with Garryspillane TJ Ryan is to take over his native club.
On the field of play TJ helped The Bouncers to avoid relegation last season and then announced his retirement.


Now, TJ Ryan is set to replace his former club and county colleague at the helm of Garryspillane.
Tony Considine could meet another familiar face during the forthcoming Limerick championship with Sean Stack remaining as coach to last season’s county finalists Na Piarsaigh.
Considine and Stack were Clare senior hurling selectors with Ger Loughnane in 1999.
There will be at least another two Clare men involved with the 16 senior club sides this season.
Sean Hehir remains as coach to senior newcomers South Liberties while Fergie O’Loughlin remains with Doon.
Last season O’Loughlin’s Doon failed to Adare in the quarter-final, when brothers Fergie and Ger came face-to-face along the sideline.
After three successive county titles, Ger O’Loughlin has now departed Adare to assume the role of Clare senior hurling manager.
O’Loughlin has appointed Danny Chaplin as one of his Clare selectors.
Chaplin was manager of Broadford last season and his departure has created an opening for Liam O’Donoghue.
Mungret’s former Limerick senior hurling manager previously enjoyed success in Clare, when winning a county title with Sixmilebridge in the early 1990’s.
One club keeping the status quo is Patrickswell, where Gary Kirby remains at the helm.
Another Patrickswell man involved with a club side is PJ O’Grady. O’Grady has returned to Croom, where he won a county junior title in 1996 and followed up with an intermediate crown in 1998.
Michael Fitzgerald is to continue for a third year with Ahane.
Bruree are one club that need a new manager for 2010 as John Tuohy is now a selector with Justin McCarthy’s inter-county side.
In the intermediate ranks, Ballybrown are to appoint a new manager, as Tom Ryan has departed.
All eyes will not turn to the draws for the county senior and intermediate hurling championships, which will take place at the next County Board meeting in Claughaun on February 9.

Ladies football
Elsewhere in the world of management, former Limerick senior football captain Tommy Stack is to take the reins of the Limerick Ladies Football team.
The veteran Dromcollogher-Broadford defender previously managed the side in 2006.
He takes over from Maire Halvey, who guided Limerick to the All-Ireland junior championship final last September, when Antrim proved too strong.

Jerome O’Connell

Sense of expectation surrounds strong Oaks entry

SLIABH na mBan, the mountain of the women, is set deep in the south-east corner of Tipperary - Slievenamon derives its name from the fairy women of Feimheinn who enchanted Fionn MacCumhnaill and his Fianna, but such pesky history won’t concern the Limerick coursing fraternity next week when they descend on Clonmel’s Powerstown Park, in the shadow of that mountain, for coursing’s national meeting.
The national meeting, which has been hosted by the Clonmel Coursing Club since 1925, is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year with Limerick connections hoping to mark the occasion by carrying home at least one prestigious title.
A huge sense of expectation surrounds a bumper Limerick entry in the Hotel Minella Oaks. Go Nina is hotly fancied in the classic and is owned by the Yes-We-Will Syndicate which is headed up by Ger Carney (Patrickswell).
Go Nina won her trial stake at Oranmore in more than impressive fashion.
Another bitch likely to feature in the Oaks is Helens Diva owned by the Pick-Me Syndicate which is based in Clarina and headed up by Richie Quinn (junior) - she won her trial stake at the Regional meeting.
There have been several whispers too for Delotti.
This bitch is owned by Joe Collins and Mossy Aherne (Templeglantine), she won her trial stake in Kilflynn (Kerry) and is expected to go close.
Four other Limerick dogs feature in the Oaks.
Chinese (owned by Paddy Fitzgerald, Rathkeale) earned a last minute call up - she lost a trial final in Borris-Ileigh, but when the victor withdrew Chinese stepped in to fill the void.
John Brown’s (Kilmallock) Uptown Hope won her trial stake at the Limerick City meeting while Glinview Bitle (owned by Glin’s TMP Syndicate) is certain to have a bit following in Clonmel.
Finally, Kilpeacon Ambush (owned by the DMDH Syndicate, Rathkeale) won her trial stake in Newcastle West.
Four Limerick dogs are worth keeping a close eye on in the Boylesports.com Derby. Limerick’s main fancy in this classic is represented by Kyle Basil. The dog is currently priced at 12/1 and is owned by Patrickswell’s Marie Field.
Doon’s Shane McLoughlin will be hoping his dog, Cooga Ruby, hits top form - Cooga Ruby won his trial stake at the Borris-Ileigh meeting.
Abbeyfeale’s Gerry Griffin trains Brazing Serpent.
This dog won his trial stake in Loughrea and the Pistol Night Syndicate will be hoping that Brazing Serpent can fulfill his obvious potential.
Finally, Curious Man should not be discounted from the reckoning. Curious Man is owned by Oola’s Seamus Burke and won his trial stake at the Regional meeting.
Two hotly-fancied Limerickdogs also take part in the prestigious Classic Club Champion Stake and in the Grace Bruton Memorial Champion Bitch Stake next week. Blades of Glory, owned by Rathkeale’s Denis Guiney, is hotly fancied in the Champion Bitch Stake while in the Champion Stake Bexhill Brian will take some beating. The dog, Bexhill Brian, is owned by Glin’s Conor Sheehan and John Barrett.
Charlie Kickham’s book Knocknagow describes Clonmel as “the town with the cloud over it”, but not one prevailing condition will put the Limerick coursing public off that south Tipperary town next week.
After all the coursing public is defined by hardy, open-air types. And, nothing could keep the Limerick coursing public from one of the highlights of the racing year.

Brian McDonnell

Flannery expected to recover

THE Irish management team is confident hooker Jerry Flannery will have recovered from a bruised shoulder injury in time to be considered for selection for Ireland’s RBS Six Nations Championship opener against Italy at Croke Park on Saturday week.
Thirty-one-year-old Flannery made his comeback from an Achilles injury when playing 40 minutes for Shannon in their AIL Division 1A clash with UL-Bohemian at Thomond Park on Saturday.


However, as a result of his bruised shoulder injury Flannery is not included in the Ireland A squad to face the England Saxons in Bath on Sunday.
There was good news for Flannery’s Munster colleague Marcus Horan who is included in the A squad to face the Saxons this weekend. Horan, who played the final 10 minutes of Munster’s Heineken Cup game with Northampton on Friday night, played the entire 80 minutes for Shannon in that AIL clash with UL-Bohemian the following day.
Horan is joined in the 22-strong Ireland A squad by Munster colleagues, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll, Niall Ronan, Ian Dowling, Denis Hurley and Peter Stringer.
Limerick-born centre Keith Matthews, currently playing with Connacht, is also named in the squad.
Speaking at the Irish training camp in Limerick this week, manager Paul McNaughton said: “Marcus Horan played 10 minutes with Munster on Friday night and has been involved with his club side in their two most recent AIL games.
“He is definitely going across to England this weekend to get some game time against the Saxons.
“Jerry Flannery got 40 minutes of game time on Saturday. He has a bit of a bruised shoulder and we will not risk him on Sunday against the Saxons. Jerry should be eligible for selection for the Italy match.”
A number of players sat out the Irish squad training session in Limerick this Tuesday. Donncha O’Callaghan (knee), Sean Cronin (sprained ankle) and Stephen Ferris (shin) did not train, but none of the players have been ruled out of contention for the first weekend the RBS Six Nations Championship. Keith earls has not yet joined the Ireland training camp due to illness.
The team and replacements for the Ireland ‘A’ team’s clash with the England Saxons at the Recreation Ground, Bath at 2pm on Sunday is named this Thursday.
Prior to Saturday’s AIL match at Thomond Park when her lined out for Shannon, hooker Flannery had not seen competitive action since helping Ireland secure a precious Test win over World Champions South Africa in November.
Afterwards Flannery, who was making his first appearance for the AIL holders since a 2007 appearance against UCD when he was coming back from a shoulder reconstruction, said: “This is my first time to get any game time since the South Africa match and it was good to get through 40 minutes. For the team to get a win was the main thing.
“One half was all they wanting me to play. This is my first week back with rugby. They wanted to limit my game time to 40 to see how the injury reacts. But I came through it ok.
“It was good to come back and play for the club. You see some things haven’t changed with the club. Andrew Thompson is still around and a lot of the other guys are too.
“Marcus was playing and Gaillimh (Mick Galwey) was also in the dressing room after the match. There was a real good family feel about the club, especially after the hard week it has had.
While he has been able to do running exercises while injured, 34-time capped Flannery was relieved to be able to play a competitive game at the end of the week.
“It is the same no matter what level you play rugby, you want to get a game at the end of the week,” Flannery explained.
“For me, it was just a normal week. For seven weeks previously, I was just running all the time and icing the leg and see how it reacts. It was like a seven-day week. Instead of taking the weekend off and playing a game you were giving the injury as much time to recover as you can. It is good to be able to train towards playing.”

Ireland A Squad v England Saxons, Recreation Groud, Sunday January 31, 2pm:
Rory Best (Ulster), Isaac Boss (Ulster), Tony Buckley (Munster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Ryan Caldwell (Ulster), Ian Dowling (Munster), John Fogarty (Leinster), Marcus Horan (Munster), Ian Humphreys (Ulster), Denis Hurley (Munster), Shane Jennings (Leinster), Keith Matthews (Connacht), John Muldoon (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Johne Murphy (Leicester), Mick O’Driscoll (Munster) , Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Niall Ronan (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Peter Stringer (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster).

Colm Kinsella

Open dream ends for Barry

THE Australian Open dream ended for Limerick’s teenage tennis star Sam Barry this week.
Barry, who turned 18 this Wednesday, made history when he became the first ever Irish player to win a match in the Australian Open Junior Championships beating Russian Victor Baluda in three sets 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Ranked no. 64 in the world, Barry recovered from losing a first set tie break to defeat an opponent, who was ranked 15 places higher in the world standings.
The round one victory, in one hour and 36 minutes, booked a spot for Sam Barry against Britain’s Oliver Golding.
The teenager from Limerick’s Ennis Road was then defeated in the second round Golding - 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 6-4.
The sixteen-year-old Golding was once a child actor in London productions of Scrooge and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as well as appearing in the feature length remake of the Disney classic Greyfriars Bobby.
A son of Michael and Jean - from his initial introduction to the sport in Limerick Lawn Tennis club at the age of six, Barry has been a member of Tennis Ireland’s National Training Programme since September 2007 and he trains at the BNP Paribas National Tennis Academy which is operated by Tennis Ireland at DCU in Dublin.
“Sam’s win at the Australian Open is hugely significant for us. He is the first player from the Academy to win a Grand Slam match and we have been working towards this day since we first opened the doors in 2005,” said Des Allen, Tennis Ireland CEO.
“To win his first match in his first Grand Slam is a huge achievement for Sam and his coaches, the Irish Sports Council and BNP Paribas, all of whom will take great satisfaction from this,” said Des Allen.
Added to his singles progress, the Limerick teenager also secured a win in the doubles competition. Together with his partner New Zealand’s Ben McLachlan, they defeated Barrett Franks and Jaden Grinter - 6-3, 6-3.
That straight sets victory set up a meeting with number four seeds, Chinese Taipai’s Liang-Chi Huang and Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama.
That ended the dream for Barry.
He had prepared for his Australian adventure by practicing with Limerick’s tennis pro Conor Niland.
After two wins in qualifying last week, Niland failed at the final hurdle to reach the main drawn of the Men’s Singles in the Australian Open.
Barry brought fine form to the Australian Open Junior Championships. Both Niland and Barry now await the updated world rankings on Monday, when the duo will expect to improve on their current standings.

Jerome O’Connell

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

McGahan insists Munster’s extra day is ‘no big deal’

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan has this week insisted that the extra day his side has to prepare for Friday night’s crunch Heineken Cup pool match with the Northampton Saints at Thomond Park is ‘not a big deal.’


While Munster have a six-day turnaround between their clash with Benetton Treviso in Italy on Saturday last and Friday night’s pool one decider, opponents Northampton Saints will be facing into their second big Heineken Cup fixture in five days, after seeing off USAP Perpignan on Sunday.
Northampton’s Rugby Director, Jim Mallinder said they had written to the Heineken Cup organisers to outline their disappointment at ‘only having five days between our last two games, especially as Munster got six.’
The Saints had the backing of the Premier Rugby League in voicing their concern, Mallinder explained.
However, Munster coach Tony McGahan said if the two-time Heineken Cup champions found themselves with a five-day break between games they would simply get on with preparations.
McGahan said: “We would deal with it. That is the way it is. We have been hampered with a number of things which have been outside our control this season, through resting players and you just need to get on with it and deal with it. Realistically, by the time we arrived back from Italy on Saturday night most people would have been home at 11pm or 11.30pm.
“Northampton would have been finished their game at 4.30pm on Sunday, so if they left the stadium after the game, they would have been home at 5pm. That’s a 14-hour difference, not a big deal in my mind, anyway. It is what it is. We have to get on with it.”
McGahan said he believed the improvement in Munster’s form in recent times had been due to a better understanding of how they wished to play and an increase in their workrate and intensity.
He is expecting 2000 Heineken Cup winners Northampton to prove formidable opponents at Thomond Park on Friday night.
Munster would be guaranteed a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup in April with a victory over the Saints on Friday night. A narrow defeat is unlikely to prevent Munster from making the knock-out stages, but it would deny the two-time winners a home quarter-final.
Coach McGahan explained: “We have a better understanding of the way we are trying to play. We worked a lot harder to get a lot more 50-50 decisions. That it is way it is. We have worked really hard on the breakdown area. You can eliminate a lot of penalties and a lot of grey areas when you are being dominant in that area.
“And that is through the perception of the referee and the opposition.
“If you are good in that area, it certainly adds to your game. But I just think that we are more familiar with the way we want to play and I think we have really upped the ante with regard to work rate and intensity in terms of what we are trying to do.
“Northampton are a form side. It tends to be always that way. The English club which comes over at this point in time is the number one side through form.
“They have had an excellent run over the last few years. I think their form this season has been excellent.”
Munster welcome back experienced prop Marcus Horan into their squad for the first time in 11 weeks.
Horan, who underwent a routine medical procedure for a minor heart ailment in October, made his competitive comeback in Shannon’s clash with Dolphin on Saturday.

Munster squad v Northampton: Wian Du Preez, Julien Brugnaut, Stephen Archer, John Hayes, Marcus Horan, Tony Buckley, Denis Fogarty, Damien Varley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan, James Coughlan, Mick O’Driscoll, Billy Holland, Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, David Wallace, Tomas O’Leary, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Jean De Villiers, Keith Earls, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Doug Howlett, Ian Dowling, Denis Hurley, Paul Warwick.

Colm Kinsella

UCC - McCarthy’s next obstacle

AFTER three months of continuous off-the-field turmoil Limerick’s new-look senior hurling team play their first competitive game of 2010 this Sunday.


There will certainly be more interest than normal when University College Cork provide the opposition in Fitzgerald Park, Kilmallock (2pm) in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal Cup. Attendance figures are likely to increase as Limerick’s hurling public travel in inquisitive mood to get a first-hand account of the inexperienced team.
Kilmallock duo Bryan O’Sullivan and Graeme Mulcahy will be in opposition to their current inter-county colleagues while another Limerick man involved with UCC is Michael Wilkinson of Ballybricken-Bohermore.
Clare trio Darach Honan (Clonlara), Aidan Quilligan (Sixmilebridge) and Damien Browne (Cratloe) could also be in the UCC line-up.
Last Saturday the new-look Limerick side had their first outing of the season when an experimental Wexford provided the opposition. That challenge game in Mallow finished all square, 0-18 a-piece.
“I’m pleased we got a game there today and all the lads got a run-out,” Justin McCarthy told reporters as he departed the field.
“I was delighted with the support we got as well and the effort in particular.
“It was typical Limerick hurling today, which was very important, and they gave their all, they were together today for the first time,” said the Limerick manager.
Limerick trailed for much of the game, but rallied to secure a draw with sub Conor Allis notching the equaliser.
“I was very pleased with the spirit shown to come back, it was very good,” said McCarthy.
Due to the wholesale changes to Limerick’s inter-county panel last October and the subsequent withdrawal of 12 regulars, only two of last year’s championship panel, Paudie McNamara and Bryan O’Sullivan, featured in the challenge game. Just McNamara played when Limerick and Wexford met in the All-Ireland qualifiers last summer.
Colm Bonnar’s Wexford were understrength with just five regulars starting and another two introduced as substitutes.
Patrickswell’s Thomas O’Brien was one of the newcomers to impress for Limerick. He was unerring from frees and added two fine scores from play in the second half.
Others to shine were Ballybrown’s Des Kenny at full-back, Kildimo’s Richie McKeogh at corner-forward and Lorcan O’Dwyer at wing back.
Pallasgreen’s Lorcan O’Dwyer has opted out of the county senior football panel to join the hurling set-up. O’Dwyer was named in the football team to face Waterford IT on Saturday, but opted to give his commitment to hurling.
Limerick v Wexford: Barry Hennessy (Kilmallock); David Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), Des Kenny (Ballybrown), Kieran O’Rourke (Bruree); Andrew Brennan (Caherline), Paul McNamara (Na Piarsaigh), Lorcan O’Dwyer (Pallasgreen); Daniel Moore (Monagea), Nicky Quaid (Effin); Cathal Mullane (Killeedy, 0-3), Bryan O’Sullivan (Kilmallock, 0-1), Thomas O’Brien (Patrickwell, 0-7, 5 frees); Andrew O’Connell (Adare), Paudie McNamara (Murroe-Boher, 0-3, 2 frees), Richie McKeogh (Kildimo, 0-1).
Subs: Conor Allis (Croom, 0-1) for Andrew O’Connell (h-t), Tommy O’Brien (Bruree) for Bryan O’Sullivan (44mins), Dean Madden (Bruff) for Daniel Moore (45mins), Peter Harty (Patrickswell, 0-1) for Paudie McNamara (54mins), Shane O’Donnell (Kilmallock, 0-1) for Nicky Quaid (59mins), Brian Quinn (Ballybrown) for Paul McNamara (65mins).
Ahead of this Sunday’s Waterford Crystal Cup game, Limerick have not won a game in the Waterford Crystal Cup since a TJ Ryan captained side won the competition with a final win over Waterford IT in the 2006 decider.
Limerick lost to Limerick IT in 2007, did not take part due to a team holiday in 2008 and lost to UL in Justin McCarthy’s first competitive game last January.
If Limerick win on Sunday, they would be back in action the following Sunday in the competition’s semi-final against either LIT or UL who meet in Moylish on Sunday (2pm).
The Davy Fitzgerald managed LIT will have a number of local players in their panel, namely Paul Browne (Bruff), Paudie O’Brien (Kilmallock), John O’Riordan (Templeglantine) and Sean Tobin (Murroe-Boher).
Inter-county stars Joe Canning (Galway) and Seamus Callanan (Tipperary) lead the LIT charge along with a host of the Clare All-Ireland under-21 winning team.
Seamus Hickey (Murroe-Boher) is the sole Limerick representative on the UL panel.
Others likely to line-out for UL are Tipperary seniors’ John Devane, Paddy Stapleton and Willie Ryan, Clare’s Brendan Bugler and Offaly’s Brian Carroll.
On Saturday, Tralee IT play Waterford and the college side have a host of local clubs players involved including Nicky Quaid (Effin), Eoin Ryan (Kilmallock), Mikey Kiely (Ballybrown), Eoin O’Brien (Kildimo), James Riordan (Templeglantine) and Mark Deegan (Hospital-Herbertstown).

Jerome O’Connell

County Board meeting ignores player statement

ALMOST 300 people packed into the Claughaun GAA clubhouse for Tuesday’s eagerly awaited January County Board meeting and yet there was space for a large elephant in the room. Remarkably not a single comment was passed on the current inter-county senior hurling impasse which has divided Limerick GAA for the last three months.
The lack of comment is all the more surprising given that the meeting took place on the same day that 24 members of the 2009 senior hurling panel released their only statement, which was critical of both Justin McCarthy’s management and the County Board.
The 24 players representing 15 different clubs and yet no club delegate opted to raise any concerns.
To be fair to the executive officers of Limerick GAA there were no road blocks placed in the way of the clubs.
The only brief mention of the inter-county scene came when Patrickswell’s John Tuohy was ratified as a new selector to McCarthy’s backroom team. The former Bruree county championship winning manager was proposed and seconded without any comment from the delegates.
The current stand-off between management and the players could have been raised at this juncture or under the ‘any other business’ section of the meeting’s agenda, but all remained silent.
Although not directly the on-going saga was raised when the Croom GAA club delegate read a statement to the meeting regarding last week’s article from Limerick Leader columnist Martin Kiely.
“On behalf of Croom GAA we don’t want to let this meeting pass by without drawing the board’s and the delegates’ attention to a very serious matter. Last week there was an article in the Limerick Leader which included a vindictive personal attack on a current Limerick player. The article by written by Mr. Martin Kiely and although he did not name the individual, it is commonly known in GAA circles and beyond exactly who he was referring to,” read Croom’s Mike Mangan.
“This is not the first time he targeted this particular player over the last few years and it mounts to nothing more than a personal vendetta.
“To refer to this player as the greatest cancer in Limerick hurling in the last few years and to make accusations regarding his personal and private life without any evidence, dates or facts is nothing short of a disgrace. While he is prepared to accept criticism on the field, what was written has caused his family and himself great personal distress.
“We challenge Mr. Kiely to name who he talking about and either back it up with facts or to apologise and retract what he said. We call on the county board to defend this player and demand an apology of this disgraceful attack on a man that has represented Limerick since under-16 level,” concluded the statement.
Ahane delegate Donal Morrissey supported the Croom statement.
“There should be no place in any publication to treat our players in that fashion,” said Donal Morrissey.
Adare’s Sean Heffernan called the article absolutely “scurrilous and a disgrace”.
Ahane’s Louis Quirke raised another concern about the article in question.
“As a board we should disassociate ourselves totally from the article,” Louis Quirke said.
“He also finished his article last week by passing comment on people that have come into this county and come in here and pass comment on what is going on in Limerick.
“People who come into this county are welcome into it if they want to promote the GAA in Limerick,” said Quirke.
In total the meeting lasted over two and a half hours and was dominated by transfers and declarations.
At the outset of the night, an EGM was held, where Claughaun’s Liam O’Sullivan was elected to the vacant position of Limerick GAA Development Officer. O’Sullivan defeated Monagea’s Gerry Philips by 195 votes to 80 votes.

Jerome O’Connell

No turning back now!

LIMERICK hurling’s winter of discontent moves from the board room to the playing field this Sunday.
New-look Limerick make their competitive debut when they face UCC in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal Cup in Kilmallock at 2pm.


Justin McCarthy’s inexperienced side will take to the field at the end of a remarkable week when a 1,700-word statement from the 24 departed members of the 2009 panel did not elicit a single comment from an attendance of close on 300 club delegates at a GAA meeting in Claughaun.
Neither Justin McCarthy nor the Limerick County Board officers have responded to criticisms raised in the players’ statement.
When contacted by Leader Sport Justin McCarthy said that he did not wish to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, speaking after this Tuesday night’s County Board meeting, Limerick GAA chairman Liam Lenihan addressed the issue: “I have no intention of commenting on the players’ statement - they were entitled to express their views.
“I am not going to get involved in a tit-for-tat with the players”.
The chairman also reiterated the fact that the “door is still open” for a return of any of the 12 withdrawn hurlers to the 2010 panel.
“I appreciate where they are coming from and I would love to see them back, but I can’t force them back.
“If we could get all of our players back that would be great.
“The door is always open - I am an eternal optimistic and we will live in hope,” said the chairman.
However, the chairman’s hope that a select number of players will re-join Justin McCarthy’s squad appears very slim. The final line of the player’s statement, released to the media on Monday night, reiterated their stance that they “will not play any active part in the 2010 Limerick senior hurling panel while the present management is in place”.
While Justin McCarthy appears to enjoy the full support of the County Board and with 24 members of the 2009 panel refusing to budge there appears to be no turning back from the current impasse.
We hope, for the sake of Limerick, the County Board and the clubs have made the right decision.

Jerome O’Connell

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

County Board & Justin McCarthy refuse to respond to hard-hitting player statement

EMBATTLED Limerick senior hurling manager Justin McCarthy was remaining tight-lipped this Tuesday morning in the wake of an explosive statement from the 24 departed members of the 2009 Limerick senior hurling panel.


McCarthy opted not to comment after the players finally broke their silence with a lengthy statement that will catapult the crisis to the top of the agenda for tonight’s (Tuesday, January 19) meeting of the County Board in Claughaun.
The delegates of the 69 GAA clubs of the county were expecting a run of the mill early season monthly meeting dominated by transfers and regradings.
However, the 1,700 word statement signed by 24 players has re-ignited the three-month long stand-off that has divided Limerick GAA.
The players have hit out at both management and officers of Limerick County Board.
When contacted this Tuesday morning by Chronicle Sport neither Justin McCarthy nor the Limerick County Board made any comments in response to the player’s statement.
The current crisis can be traced back to October 21, 2009, but it was only this Sunday night that the departed players met as a group for the first time.
It is understood that a lengthy meeting was held in the Woodlands House Hotel, Adare where it was decided to issue a public statement to “address an orchestrated series of allegations made by Justin McCarthy and several other prominent figures in the ongoing dispute”.
The players dispelled rumours that some individuals were considering a return to action.
“We reiterate our stance that we will not play any active part in the 2010 Limerick senior hurling panel while the present management is in place,” states the final line of the statement which was issued late this Monday night and was signed by 24 members of the 2009 panel apart from the six that remain in situ.
In the controversial statement the players have hit out at management’s role in influencing players decisions.
“Many players have received intimidating phone calls from members of the management and back room staff putting them under pressure to join the 2010 Limerick senior hurling panel,” said the players in criticism of McCarthy and selectors Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey.
“We feel that Justin McCarthy and his selectors are perfectly entitled to select the 30 or so players they chose for the 2010 Limerick senior hurling panel and are perfectly entitled to omit any players as they see fit, as is there prerogative. However, the inference that Mr. McCarthy made on a newspaper interview on October 30, 2009 that a number of players were dropped due to a lack of discipline and commitment sparked an extremely negative response from the majority of the 2009 panel,” said the players when addressing the origins of the current situation.
The statement adds: “At no time over the course of approximately 100 training sessions or gatherings did Mr. McCarthy make any reference to a ‘lack of discipline or commitment’.”
They stressed that players and management were “at odds at many points throughout the year”.
“His (Justin McCarthy) failure, even still, to extend common courtesy to the dropped players by informing them - either by phone or letter - that they would not be required for the forthcoming season was only one of a series of communication failures on his part over the course of the year.”

Jerome O’Connell

Horan’s comeback to the top flight gathers momentum

MARCUS Horan’s comeback to top flight rugby gathers further momentum this week with the experienced prop named in the extended Munster squad for Friday night’s crunch Heineken Cup pool one tie against the Northampton Saints at Thomond Park (8pm).


Horan successfully came through his first competitive game in 11 weeks when playing a full 80 minutes for Shannon in their AIB All-Ireland League Division 1A victory over Dolphin at Coonagh on Saturday.
The 32-year-old prop, who underwent a routine medical procedure for a minor heart ailment in late autumn, has not been involved with Munster since their home Heineken Cup tie with Benetton Treviso in mid-October.
Speaking to Chronicle Sport in the aftermath of his comeback game for Shannon, Horan admitted the period after the Treviso game last year had been a worrying time, but the international prop was glad to be back playing once again.
“The period just after the Treviso game was a frightening time for me. I spoke to a few specialists about it. The first bit of news I got wasn’t great. It was pretty traumatic, to be honest about it, for myself and for my wife. I didn’t know what the future held.
“But I met up with a great surgeon in Gerry Fahy, in Cork. He re-assured me with everything he did. Everything has been fantastic since.
“That was the great thing about today. I never thought I would be back here togged out, rolling around in the mud. That is the wonder of what these surgeons can do and it is fantastic.
“I mean I am still only ticking the boxes. I have to keep going with the recovery and try to get back to the top is the main thing.
“I feel grand after the game. Obviously, my match fitness is not there yet. I was struggling a bit there towards the end. With the ground being so heavy, I wasn’t used to playing on pitches like that. I am glad to have it under my belt.”
The Munster side to face Northampton in Friday night’s big clash at Thomond Park will be named at noon on Thursday.
Munster, currently two points ahead of Northampton in pool one, will secure a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup in April with victory over second-placed Saints.
Two-time Heineken Cup winners Munster would remain strong favourites to make the quarter-finals for the 12th successive season as group runners-up, even with a defeat on Friday night.
However, any quarter-final berth secured in those circumstances would be away from home.
Northampton Saints defeated Munster in the 2000 Heineken Cup final and again when the sides met in the pool stages of this season’s competition in October.
Jim Mallinder, the Saints Director of Rugby, insists the build-up to the big match will be more about excitement and anticipation than producing sleepless nights and, despite the rapid five-day turnaround, the Guinness Premiership side will be prepared for the challenge.
“I think this match is everything you want,” said Jim Mallinder.
“When we saw the draw we knew it would be difficult, but what we did want to do was play ourselves into a position where come round six we had something to play for - and we have managed to do that so that is satisfying.”

Colm Kinsella

Monday, January 18, 2010

All set for a Heineken Cup cracker at Thomond Park

FOR the fifth time in eight seasons Thomond Park hosts an Anglo-Irish pool decider in the Heineken Cup as in-from Munster lock horns with Guinness Premiership high-flyers the Northampton Saints this Friday night (8pm).


Munster will secure a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup in April with victory over second-placed Northampton in their high stakes round six pool match.
Two-time Heineken Cup winners Munster would remain strong favourites to make the quarter-finals for the 12th successive season as group runners-up, even with a defeat on Friday night.
However, any quarter-final berth secured in those circumstances would be away from home.
Northampton Saints, winners over Munster in the 2000 Heineken Cup final and again when the sides met in the pool stages of this season’s competition in October, are currently within two points of Munster.
Tony McGahan’s Munster men maintained their grip on top spot in the pool with a thoroughly convincing 44-7 victory over Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo on Saturday. Munster ran in six tries against the hapless Italians with centre Keith Earls helping himself to a brace. Northampton remained in touch after recording a last gasp, 34-0, bonus-point win of their own over USAP Perpignan at Franklin’s Gardens yesterday.
Munster received a timely boost ahead of Friday night’s showdown at Thomond Park when Marcus Horan played his first game in 11 weeks when lining out for Shannon in their AIL Division 1A tie against Dolphin at Coonagh on Saturday.
Horan, who played the full 80 minutes for the AIL holders, said he felt fine afterwards and was pleased to be back playing after undergoing a routine medical procedure in October.
Prop Horan may well be included in the Munster squad for the big clash against the Saints.
While pleased with their win against Treviso, Munster skipper Paul O’Connell warned that Northampton would provide a different level of opposition at Thomond Park next Friday night.
“There was some good rugby there. Sometimes that happens, you can get over the gain line and things start happening.
“I have no doubt the game against Northampton, the English League leaders, will be very much different. I would not read a lot into the match with Treviso,” O’Connell warned.
“I was a bit worried about our match fitness beforehand. A few of us perform best when we have a couple of games under our belts. At the same time we are very fresh. I think while we were worried about the break, it can be a good thing for us as well. Friday’s game in Thomond Park should be a cracker.”
Following his side’s 34-0 bonus point win over USAP Perpignan yesterday, Northampton’s rugby director, Jim Mallinder said they were unhappy with just a five-day turnaround between their round five and round six games.
“We were disappointed at only having five days between our last two games, especially as Munster got six,” Mallinder said.
“It was because of the short turn around time that we made some of the substitutions in the second half.
“We wrote to ERC to explain why we were unhappy at the decision and Premier Rugby backed us up. But now we have to get on with it and we will go to Munster on the back of 10 wins in a row. The team have shown over the last few games that they have massive belief in themselves and we are on a good run.
“We will be going to Thomond Park looking for a victory and we have the belief we can win there. We have a pack who are competitive and we showed that when we beat Munster in the first round. You can’t afford to be intimidated going to a place like Thomond Park and you have to stand toe-to-toe with a side like Munster.”

COLM KINSELLA

McCarthy ‘pleased’ with performance against Wexford

AFTER of winter of discontent embattled Limerick hurling manager Justin McCarthy said he was happy to finally focus on matters on-field.
The new-look Limerick hurlers played their first game of 2010 with a challenge game against an experimental Wexford on Saturday in the Mallow GAA Complex.


“I’m pleased we got a game there today and all the lads got a run-out,” said Justin McCarthy after the sides finished 0-18 a-piece.
“I was delighted with the support we got as well and the effort in particular. It was typical Limerick hurling today, which was very important, and they gave their all, they were together today for the first time,” said the Limerick manager.
Limerick trailed for much of the game, but rallied to secure a draw with sub Conor Allis getting the equaliser.
“I was very pleased with the spirit shown to come back, it was very good,” said Justin McCarthy.
Limerick play their first competitive game of the new season next Sunday (2pm) when they face UCC in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal Cup in Fitzgerald Park, Kilmallock.
UCC shocked Cork yesterday in round one with two Limerick club players forming the midfield partnership for the students - Bryan O’Sullivan (Kilmallock) and Michael Wilkinson (Ballybricken-Bohermore).
Due the McCarthy’s wholesale changes to Limerick’s inter-county panel last October and the subsequent withdrawal of 12 regulars only two of last year’s championship panel, Paudie McNamara and Bryan O’Sullivan, started Saturday’s challenge game.
Just McNamara played when Limerick and Wexford met in the All-Ireland qualifiers last summer.
Colm Bonnar’s Wexford were in experimental mode on Saturday with just five regulars starting and another two introduced as substitutes.
Patrickswell’s Thomas O’Brien was one of the newcomers to impress for Limerick. He was unerring from frees and added two fine scores from play in the second half. Others to shine were Ballybrown’s Des Kenny at full-back and Kildimo’s Richie McKeogh at corner-forward and Pallasgreen’s Lorcan O’Dwyer at wing-back.
Pallasgreen’s O’Dwyer has opted out of the county senior football panel to join the hurling set-up. O’Dwyer was named in the football team to face Waterford IT on Saturday, but opted to give his commitment to hurling.
Limerick v Wexford: Barry Hennessy (Kilmallock); David Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), Des Kenny (Ballybrown), Kieran O’Rourke (Bruree); Andrew Brennan (Caherline), Paul McNamara (Na Piarsaigh), Lorcan O’Dwyer (Pallasgreen); Daniel Moore (Monagea), Nicky Quaid (Effin); Cathal Mullane (Killeedy, 0-3), Bryan O’Sullivan (Kilmallock, 0-1), Thomas O’Brien (Patrickwell, 0-7, 5 frees); Andrew O’Connell (Adare), Paudie McNamara (Murroe-Boher, 0-3 2 frees), Richie McKeogh (Kildimo, 0-1). Subs: Conor Allis (Croom, 0-1) for Andrew O’Connell (h-t), Tommy O’Brien (Bruree) for Bryan O’Sullivan (44mins), Dean Madden (Bruff) for Daniel Moore (45mins), Peter Harty (Patrickswell, 0-1) for Paudie McNamara (54mins), Shane O’Donnell (Kilmallock, 0-1) for Nicky Quaid (59mins), Brian Quinn (Ballybrown) for Paul McNamara (65mins).

JEROME O’CONNELL

Conor Niland’s dream dashed down under

LIMERICK tennis star Conor Niland came within minutes of reaching the Australian Open over the weekend.


The 28-year-old Mungret man was serving at 4-3 up in the second set of the final qualifying round, but he failed to put away Brazilian Ricardo Hocevar. Conor Niland eventually lost 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Had Niland reached his first Grand Slam he would have secured a hugely attractive first round tie against home favourite Lleyton Hewitt.
The Limerick professional tennis player was in a commanding position having won the first set and held a break of serve in the second set, but his opponent dug deep to book his place in a first Grand Slam.
Ireland did get a player in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time since 1985 when Niland’s Davis Cup team-mate Louk Sorensen qualified for the Melbourne event.
Listed at 288 in the ATP World ranked Conor Niland had impressed enroute to the final qualifying round.
He opened in Melbourne with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Finland’s Henri Kontinen.
Niland then produced one of his best ever results when he edged the United States’ 163-ranked Jesse Witten 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Witten, who was seeded 28 in the qualifiers, made it to the third round of last year’s US Open and has a current career high ranking of 163 in the world.
Niland is enjoying a great start to the new season and brought good recent form to Melbourne.
In his only previous competitive outing of 2010 he went tantalisingly close to qualifying in the $1,024,000 Exxon Open, in Doha, Qatar.
Conor Niland will break from the ATP Tour in late February when he will return home to lead the Irish team in Davis Cup action against Turkey in Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club from March 5-7.
Attention now turns to Limerick teenager Sam Barry, who takes part in the Australian Open Junior Championships which commence on Saturday.

JEROME O’CONNELL

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Table-topping Munster face a tricky trip to Benetton Treviso

TABLE toppers Munster face a tricky Italian job this Saturday when Tony McGahan’s men travel to the Stadio Comunale di Monigo to face plucky Benetton Treviso in a crucial round five Heineken Cup pool match (1.35pm).


Munster currently enjoy a two-point lead over the Northampton Saints at the top of pool one in the competition.
Should both Munster and Northampton win their games this weekend, then the outcome of the pool will depend on the result of their final round clash on Friday, January 22 at Thomond Park (8pm).
Munster’s preparations for this weekend’s game were hampered by the cancellation of their scheduled Magners League meeting with the Llanelli Scarlets at Musgrave Park on Sunday last.
Munster had included all their match-fit internationals, with the exception of John Hayes, for the clash with the Scarlets.
However, their lack of match fitness, as a result of the postponement, will be a cause for some concern for coach Tony McGahan ahead of the trip to the Stadio Comunalel di Monigo.
Munster’s starting line-up for Saturday’s round five Heineken Cup pool match against Treviso is likely to be very similar to that which faced USAP Perpignan in the previous round at the Stade Aime Giral.
Then, Munster produced their most outstanding display of the season to record a 37-14, bonus point, victory.
The victory leaves Munster at the top of pool one of the Heineken Cup on 15 points, two more than the Northampton Saints.
Treviso have proved formidable opponents on their home ground. The Italian side shocked USAP Perpignan in their opening round fixture in October and Northampton were forced to survive a stern examination before grinding out a narrow victory in their pool match before Christmas.
Munster hooker Jerry Flannery is facing an uphill battle to be involved in either of the province’s remaining two Heineken Cup pool games.
Flannery, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, has already been ruled out of this Saturday’s game.
And despite making good progress with the injury, 31-year-old Flannery is also rated a doubtful starter for Munster’s big final round showdown with the Northampton Saints.
Irish international Flannery has featured in just one of Munster’s four Heineken Cup pool matches this season, the opening round tie away to Northampton in October.
Despite some excellent showings by former London Wasps star Damien Varley for the province this season, it is likely that Denis Fogarty will line out at hooker for Munster in this weekend’s clash.
Fogarty has started three European Cup games for Tony McGahan’s side this season, scoring tries against Treviso and USAP Perpignan.
The recent adverse weather also delayed the planned comeback of prop Marcus Horan, who had been due to feature for Shannon in their AIL clash with St. Mary’s College at Templeville Road.
The postponement of the Division 1A fixture was a setback to Horan’s hopes of being involved in Munster’s crunch tie in Italy this weekend.
The Munster squad trained in Cork this Wednesday and are due to fly out to Italy from Shannon Airport on Friday morning.
Benetton Treviso went down 8-3 to Petrarca Padova in the Italian Super 10 competition last weekend.
Munster will be hoping to claim a maximum five-point haul from their trip to northern Italy. The two-time Heineken Cup winners had to survive an early scare against Treviso at Thomond Park in October before recording a convincing 41-10 victory.
In their last trip to the Stadio Comunale di Monigo in 2004, Munster recovered from a stuttering first half display to earn a 31-20 bonus point victory.

Colm Kinsella

Lucey primed for a return to action

STEPHEN Lucey could be back in the Limerick colours by the end of the month.
Lucey was one of the high-profile hurlers deemed surplus to requirements by Justin McCarthy, but the Croom man remains central to the plans of Limerick football manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
Lucey suffered a serious tear of his hamstring late last August when playing for his club, Croom, in the county senior hurling championship against Granagh-Ballingarry.
At the time it was expected that Lucey will be sidelined for at least six months however he is now on course to return for the start of the National Football League.
“He had a serious tear of his hamstring, but we are expecting him back by the end of the month,” confirmed Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
“Stephen knows how to care for himself because of his medical background,” explained the Limerick senior football manager.
Limerick open their league campaign with a trip to Ruislip to face London on February 7 and six days later (February 13) Limerick will host Carlow under lights at the Gaelic Grounds.
Last season Stephen Lucey and his club-mate Mark O’Riordan played both inter-county hurling and football with Limerick, however both were among the hurlers culled by Justin McCarthy for 2010.
In the aftermath of the wholesale hurling panel changes, 12 players withdrew in protest and one of those, James Ryan has now joined Lucey and O’Riordan on the football panel.
Ryan is named at centre-forward for this Thursday night’s (7.30pm) McGrath Cup game against Waterford IT. Due to the poor weather conditions, it appears unlikely that the game will take place in the Gaelic Grounds and the Staker Wallace club facilities in Kilbreedy, Martinstown are on stand-by.
Barring the injured Lucey and Thomas Cahill, Limerick will be pretty much at full-strength against WIT.
Others not involved in the match-panel are Ger Collins, Cormac Joyce-Power and Eoin Hogan - who are all committed to varying third level colleges for the McGrath Cup.
Although only six of Thursday’s selected team started against Meath in the All-Ireland aualifiers last August, it is still a vastly-experienced Limerick side.
Ballysteen’s Conor Ranahan, Fr. Caseys’ Eoin Joy and St. Patricks’ John Mullane are all handed their first starts at senior level.
It could be a busy 72 hours for Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s Limerick side.
If Limerick overcome the Waterford students, they will play Cork IT on Sunday (2.30pm) in the competition’s quarter-final in Fitzgerald Park, Kilmallock.
Were Limerick to advance further in the competition, their semi-final opponents would be Clare or UCC.
This Thursday night Waterford IT will have three Limerick club players involved in their panel - Jimmy Barry-Murphy & Shane Fox of Ballylanders and Richie McCarthy of Blackrock.
Limerick have won the McGrath Cup on five occasions (2005, 2004, 2001, 1987 and 1985) since the competition was inaugurated in 1981, but have not captured the early season provincial competition since the arrival of Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
This season management appear to be placing added emphasis on the McGrath Cup.
The capture of silverware, regardless of its value, would provide an ideal boost of confidence for a side that is becoming the nearly team of the championship.
Promotion from division four is a must for the panel and a run of competitive games would be the preferred preparation for the NFL. Twelve months ago Limerick were shocked by UL in round one of the McGrath Cup and were subsequently slow to find their form in the National Football League and ended up being relegated to division four.

Jerome O’Connell

Niland - just two wins away from Australian Open

LIMERICK tennis pro Conor Niland is two wins away from qualifying for the Australian Open.
The 28-year-old is this week taking part in the qualifying rounds for the first Grand Slam of the New Year in Australia.
This Tuesday night Niland, with a superb display, beat Finland’s Henri Kontinen 6-4, 6-4 to advance to round two.
The tournament proper gets underway on Monday next and the 288-ranked Limerick man will have to win two more matches to get into the 128-man main draw.
Next up for Conor Niland is a tough encounter against American Jesse Witten.
The American is over 100 places ahead of the Irish star in the world rankings.
Earlier this week Limerick tennis duo Niland and teenage Sam Barry joined forces to complete their preparations for the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open.
Earlier this week Conor Niland and Sam Barry practiced together in Melbourne.
Barry’s efforts to qualify for the under-18 event won’t commence until next week.
One of the biggest obstacles facing the Limerick pair are the current temperatures of over 30 degrees celsius.
Niland brought good recent form to Melbourne.
In his only competitive outing of 2010 he went tantalisingly close to qualifying in the $1,024,000 Exxon Open in Doha, Qatar.
After overwhelming Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round of the qualifying series, the 288-ranked Limerick man suffered a heartbreaking 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) defeat by Belgium’s Steve Darcis.
Conor Niland will break from the ATP Tour in late February when he will return home to lead the Irish team in Davis Cup action against Turkey in Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club from March 5 to March 7.

Jerome O’Connell

McCarthy prepares to run rule over new-look Limerick

JUSTIN McCarthy will run the rule over his new-look senior hurling team for the first time this Saturday when Limerick play Wexford in a challenge game in Mallow.
Paudie McNamara is the only player still available for selection from the side that played in the All-Ireland qualifer in Wexford Park last July - eight of the team have withdrawn their services while six have been dispensed with by management.


Just one week now remains before Limerick play either Cork or UCC in Fitzgerald Park Kilmallock in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal Cup.
The management’s quest to assemble a panel have been hampered by the weather and training had to be cancelled this week while last weekend the panel had to be content with just an indoor session in Mallow.
Off the field of play the weather also forced the postponement of this week’s eagerly-awaited County Board Special Convention.
That convention and the first County Board meeting of 2010 will now take place in Claughaun next Tuesday night, January 19 at 7.30pm.
With the ratification of John Tuohy as a new selector on Justin McCarthy’s hurling management on the agenda, the on-going hurling saga is sure to be discussed.
In the past week Croke Park broke their silence on the stand-off which has almost stretched to three months in duration.
“In terms of getting involved, no. It is something we are reluctant to do. At the moment we will see how this evolves. I think Limerick know our views. We would like to have it settled and settled very quickly,” confirmed the GAA’s director general Paraic Duffy.
“But it is primarily a matter for Limerick and at the moment we are not getting involved.
“Obviously we would help, but we don’t see ourselves having a role in this. This is a matter for Limerick and we won’t get involved in it unless there is a request made,” said Duffy who also confirmed that GAA President Christy Cooney had been in contact with Limerick GAA officials.
“For the moment we will leave it with Limerick and see what develops.”
Duffy added: “We would hope it is settled before the start of the national league. We don’t want to go into the situation again where counties are fielding a weakened team - that doesn’t help the counties”.

Jerome O’Connell

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flannery facing an uphill battle

MUNSTER hooker Jerry Flannery is facing an uphill battle to be involved in either of the province’s final two Heineken Cup pool games.
Flannery, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, has already been ruled out of Munster’s round five Heineken Cup match away to Benetton Treviso this Saturday (1.35pm Irish time).


And despite making good progress with the injury 31-year-old Flannery is also rated a doubtful starter for Munster’s big final round showdown with the Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on Friday week, January 22 (8pm).
Irish international Jerry Flannery has featured in just one of Munster’s four Heineken Cup pool matches this season, the opening round tie away to Northampton in October.
Despite some excellent showings by former London Wasps star Damien Varley for the province this season, it is likely that Denis Fogarty will line out at hooker for Munster in this weekend’s clash at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
Fogarty has started three European Cup games for Tony McGahan’s side this season, scoring tries against Benetton Treviso and USAP Perpignan.
Munster’s preparations for this weekend’s game have been hampered by the recent cold snap which forced the postponement of the scheduled Magners League clash with the Llanelli Scarlets on Sunday.
The adverse weather also delayed the planned comeback of prop Marcus Horan, who had been due to feature for Shannon in their AIL clash with St. Mary’s College at Templeville Road.
The postponement of the Division 1A fixture was a setback to Marcus Horan’s hopes of being involved in Munster’s crunch tie in Italy this weekend.
Up to half the players expected to feature in Munster’s starting line-up on Saturday have not played a competitive game since the province’s bonus-point win over USAP Perpignan in France on December 20.
The rise in temperatures in recent days is a boost to Munster’s on-field preparations, however. The squad train in Cork this Wednesday and are due to fly out to Italy from Shannon Airport this Friday morning.
Benetton Treviso, Munster’s opponents next weekend, went down 8-3 to Petrarca Padova in the Italian Super 10 competition at the weekend.
Meanwhile, on the club front, new dates have been announced for the AIl-Ireland League fixtures which were postponed in recent weeks due to the inclement weather conditions.
Holders Shannon will travel to Templeville Road to face St. Mary’s College in Division 1A on Saturday, January 30 while Division 1B high-flyers Young Munster will host Dungannon at Tom Clifford Park on the same day after both games were postponed at the weekend.
Garryowen, due to be involved in fixtures on each of the five Saturdays over January, are facing into a hectic playing schedule after recent postponements.
The ‘light blues’ are involved in two rounds of scheduled AIL matches over the next two weekends.
Garryowen face Cork Constitution in the AIB Cup final in Athlone on Saturday, January 30 before locking horns with Dolphin at Dooradoyle on February 7 and Blackrock College at the same venue six days later in re-arranged AIL games.
UL Bohemian’s re-scheduled Division 1A clash with Cork Constitution goes ahead on Sunday, February 7 the day after Ireland open their RBS Six Nations Championship campaign at home to Italy.
In Division 2 Thomond will also be in action on Sunday, February 7 when the Fitzgerald Park side travel to West Cork to face Clonakilty at The Vale.
Thomond then have a six-day turnaround before facing Old Wesley at Fitzgerald Park in another re-arranged fixture.
The two remaining Division 2 fixtures featuring Limerick clubs, which were postponed last weekend, go ahead on Saturday, February 13.
Old Crescent host table toppers Lansdowne at Rosbrien while Bruff will face Malone at Kilballyowen Park - see page 61 for list of rescheduled AIl-Ireland League games.

Colm Kinsella

Lucey primed for early return to inter-county action

STEPHEN Lucey could be back in the Limerick colours by the end of the month.
Lucey was one of the high-profile hurlers deemed surplus to requirements by Justin McCarthy, but the Croom man remains central to the plans of Limerick football manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
Lucey suffered a serious tear of his hamstring late last August when playing for his club in the county senior hurling championship against Granagh-Ballingarry.
At the time it was expected that Lucey would be sidelined for at least six months however he is now on course to return for the start of the National Football League.
“He had a serious tear of his hamstring, but we are expecting him back by the end of the month,” confirmed O’Sullivan.
“Stephen knows how to care of himself because of his medical background,” explained the football manager.
Limerick open their league campaign with a trip to Ruislip to face London on February 7 and six days later (February 13) Limerick will host Carlow under lights at the Gaelic Grounds.
Last season Lucey and his club-mate Mark O’Riordan played both inter-county hurling and football with Limerick however both were among the hurlers culled by Justin McCarthy for 2010.
In the aftermath of the wholesale hurling panel changes 12 players withdrew in protest and one of those, James Ryan, has now joined Lucey and O’Riordan in the football panel.
Ryan is named at centre-forward for this Thursday night’s (7.30) McGrath Cup game against Waterford IT in the Gaelic Grounds.
Barring the injured Lucey and Thomas Cahill Limerick will be pretty much at full strength against WIT.
Others not involved in the match-panel are Ger Collins, Cormac Joyce Power and Eoin Hogan - who are all committed to varying Third Level Colleges for the McGrath Cup.
Although only six of Thursday’s selected team started against Meath in the All-Ireland Qualifiers last August it is still a vastly experienced Limerick side. Ballysteen’s Conor Ranahan, Fr. Caseys’ Eoin Joy and St. Patricks’ John Mullane are all handed their first starts at senior level.
In other news this week’s specially convened AGM of Limerick GAA was postponed because of the weather conditions.
The meeting was to elect Limerick’s new Development Officer and to ratify John Tuohy as a new Limerick senior hurling selector.
Also sure to have been discussed is the continuing stand-off between members of the 2009 senior hurling panel and manager Justin McCarthy.

Jerome O’Connell

Niland and Sam Barry join forces

LIMERICK tennis duo Conor Niland and Sam Barry have joined forces as they complete their preparations for the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open.
Later this week the local duo will attempt to win their way into the main draw of the first Grand Slam events of the new season.
For the last number of days Niland and Barry have practiced together in Melbourne.
Niland could be in action tomorrow as the senior qualifying rounds commences, but Barry’s efforts to qualify for the under-18 event won’t commence until next week.
One of the biggest obstacles facing the Limerick pair are the current temperatures of over 30 degrees celsius.
“After my match on the Monday Sam and I practiced together for a few days and then flew down to Melbourne together on the Friday where we’ve also had a few hitting sessions,” explained Niland.
Niland will be joined by Davis Cup team-mate Louk Sorensen in the senior event while Sam Barry will have fellow teenager John Morrissey for company in the under-18 event as Irish tennis enjoys its biggest representation for many years.
Niland and Sorensen clinched their places in the preliminary stages by achieving their ambition of finishing the tournament year of 2009 in the top 300 of the ATP singles world rankings. Niland is ranked 288 while Sorensen is ranked 294.
However the ultimate goal is to reach the main draw of the Australian Open.
Niland brings good recent form to Melbourne.
In his only competitive outing of 2010 he went tantalisingly close to qualifying in the $1,024,000 Exxon Open in Doha, Qatar. After overwhelming Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round of the qualifying series the 288-ranked Limerick man suffered a heartbreaking 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) defeat by Belgium’s Steve Darcis.
Niland will break from the ATP Tour in late February when he will return home to lead the Irish team in Davis Cup action against Turkey in Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club from March 5–7.

Jerome O’Connell

Monday, January 11, 2010

Big freeze hampers Munster preparation

THE postponement of Munster’s scheduled Magners League clash with the Llanelli Scarlets yesterday is a blow to the province’s preparations for Saturday’s crunch Heineken Cup clash with Benetton Treviso (1.35pm Irish time).
The big freeze, which has gripped the country in recent weeks forced the postponement of the Musgrave Park clash and leaves up to half of Munster’s front line players without a competitive game since December 20.


Munster had included all their match-fit internationals, with the exception of John Hayes, for the scheduled Magners League clash with the Scarlets. However, their lack of match fitness as a result of the postponement, will be a cause for some concern for coach Tony McGahan ahead of the trip to the Stadio Communale di Monigo this weekend.
Munster’s starting line-up for Saturday’s round five Heineken Cup pool match against Treviso is likely to be very similar to that which faced USAP Perpignan in the previous round at the Stade Aime Giral. Then, Munster produced their most outstanding display of the season to record a 37-14 bonus-point victory. That victory leaves Munster at the top of pool one in the Heineken Cup on 15 points, two more than the Northampton Saints.
The winner of the pool is likely to be decided on Friday, January 22 when Munster host the Northampton Saints at Thomond Park in a final round clash (8pm).
Following a 10am inspection by officials from Munster Rugby and David McHugh from the IRFU Referee Department on Saturday it was decided to postpone the scheduled meeting of Munster and the Scarlets.
Tickets purchased for the Musgrave Park game will be valid for the re-fixture.
Details of the new date and kick-off time will be communicated once the game has been re-fixed.
The cancellation of the weekend’s planned AIB All-Ireland League fixtures came as a blow to Marcus Horan’s comeback hopes.
Horan, who has been sidelined since Munster’s Heineken Cup clash with Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park in October after undergoing a routine procedure, was due to feature for Shannon in their AIL Division 1A clash with St. Mary’s College.
However, that game and all others across four divisions fell victim to the adverse weather conditions.
The IRFU decided, as a result of the continuing cold snap, to cancel all games in the AIL ‘in the interests of player and spectator safety’.
The scheduled games will be re-fixed for an alternate date and the new dates will be announced this week.
The planned fixture list for Limerick clubs at the weekend included two home games in Division 1A with Garryowen due to host Blackrock College at Dooradoyle and UL Bohemian at home to Cork Constitution in Annacotty.
Holders Shannon were due to travel to Templeville Road to face St. Mary’s College.
In Division 1B second-placed Young Munster were due to host Dungannon at Clifford Park.
In Division 2 Old Crescent were scheduled to meet League leaders Lansdowne at Rosbrien while Thomond were due to host Old Wesley at Fitzgerald Park and Bruff were set to host Malone at Kilballyowen Park.
Meanwhile it has been confirmed that Connacht’s Limerick-born international hooker Sean Cronin is to remain on at the Sportsground for a further season. Twenty-three-year-old Cronin, who earned his first full cap against Fiji in November, has signed a one-year extension to his existing contract with Connacht.
Cronin is currently in his second season with the Western province having spent a couple of seasons in the Munster Academy prior to his move to the Sportsground.

COLM KINSELLA

Ardscoil Ris drawn to face Templemore

ARDSCOIL Ris have been drawn to face Our Lady’s Templemore in the quarter-finals of the Dr. Harty Cup.
The North Circular Road secondary school will face the Tipperary outfit on Wednesday, January 20 as they bid to reach a third successive semi-final in the Munster senior A colleges hurling championship.
The draws for the provincial championship were made at a meeting of the Munster Colleges Council on Saturday in Mallow.
If Ardscoil overcome the challenge of Templemore they could face a repeat of last season’s semi-final against St. Caimin’s of Shannon who play Midleton CBS in their quarter-final.
Elsewhere in the last eight St. Flannan’s of Ennis play Thurles CBS and Nenagh CBS face De La Salle, Waterford.
“We are not looking beyond the Templemore game,” Ardscoil Ris manager Derek Larkin told Leader Sport.
“The semi-finals is the furthest we have ever been and we want to get back there for the third year in-a-row.”
Ardscoil finished top of their qualifying group with wins over Cashel CBS and St. Colman’s of Fermoy while they finished level with Midleton CBS.
“The last time we met Templemore was three years ago in the White Cup (under-15) final and they beat us, so we know what to expect,” explained the Ardscoil manager.
For the first time this season Ardscoil Ris are expecting to have a full strength panel for their quarter-final. The Na Piarsaigh pair Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes, Declan Hannon and John Fitzgibbon (Adare), Patrickwell’s Seanie O’Brien and Mark Carmody and Cratloe’s Cathal McInerney provide the backbone to the Ardscoil Ris challenge.
“We have huge experience - a real good balance to our side. But then again all that won’t count for much, it will all be on the day of the game,” said Larkin.
The Ardscoil management is completed by coaches Niall Moran and Liam Cronin along with selectors Natal O’Grady and Jimmy Browne.
While Ardscoil Ris are happy to report an injury-free panel their preparations have been greatly hindered by the current weather.
“All our training has been hampered with pitches not available, but everyone is in the same position. Other the years teams would enter the quarter-finals with three or four challenge games played, but this year it will be different,” said Larkin.
Elsewhere Limerick GAA is mourning the loss of former inter-county dual player, Danny Fitzgerald. The popular Claughaun man won National Hurling League medals from centre-forward with the Limerick in 1984 and 1985. In 1991 Fitzgerald scored four points from play in the Munster senior football final when Limerick nearly shocked Kerry. He received a football All-Star nominee at the end of that season.
Fitzgerald also played Railway Cup hurling and football for Munster - winning a hurling title in 1984.

JEROME O’CONNELL

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Munster - contingency plan in place

MUNSTER rugby chiefs remain confident that Sunday’s crucial Magners League clash with the Llanelli Scarlets will go ahead as scheduled in Musgrave Park despite the current cold snap.
A Munster spokesman said that the playing surface at Musgrave Park was covered and they were optimistic it would be playable for this Sunday’s game which has a 5pm kick-off time.


The spokesman revealed this Wednesday that a contingency plan had been put in place to transfer the fixture to Limerick’s Thomond Park should Musgrave Park be deemed unplayable due to the freezing temperatures.
Should the venue for the round 11 tie need to be changed, then such a decision will be made on Saturday.
The pitch at Musgrave Park is due to be inspected at lunchtime this Friday in the presence of a referee and again on Saturday evening.
Munster officials are keeping Llanelli officials updated on the situation.
The safety of supporters standing on terraces inside Musgrave Park as well as on the approach roads to the ground will be key factors in determining whether this weekend’s game goes ahead. Munster Rugby chiefs have plans to use a grit mix of salt and sand to ensure surfaces are safe for fans attending the game should the freezing temperatures continue.
Munster will bid to record their ninth straight win against the Llanelli Scarlets when they sides meet in a crucial Magners League tie at Musgrave Park this Sunday (5pm).
Holders Munster are clinging to the fourth and final pay-off spot in the Magners League table as a result of their 15-10 defeat at the hands of Ulster in Ravenhill last weekend.
With the three sides directly below Munster in the table all within three points of Tony McGahan’s men, each of the Magners League holders’ eight remaining fixtures in the regular season is crucial.
On the back of Munster’s loss to Ulster in Ravenhill at the weekend, the Magners League holders will be anxious to record a sixth victory of the campaign in order to keep in touch with the league pace-setters.
Following Sunday’s game Munster will take a break from Magners League action for six weeks until Friday, February 19 when Edinburgh visit Musgrave Park.
However, Munster will be involved in their final two Heineken Cup pool matches later this month.
Tony McGahan’s men visit the Stadio di Monigo to face Benetton Treviso on Saturday, January 16 before hosting the Northampton Saints in their final pool fixture at Thomond Park on Friday, January 22.
Munster manager, Shaun Payne believes it will be the final rounds of the Magners League in April before the outcome of the fiercely fought battle for top four play-off places is finally known.
Shaun Payne said: “The Magners League has been fiercely competitive. There is something like seven or eight points separating the top seven sides in the competition at the moment.
“It will be April before we get a clear idea as to which sides will make it through to the play-offs.”
The Magners League semi-finals will take place in mid-May with the Grand Final set for Saturday, May 29 with a provisional kick-off time of 6.30pm.
Munster are set to welcome back their Irish internationals, including the likes of Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, David Wallace and Keith Earls into their squad for Sunday’s game in Cork.
The Irish stars have been on two weeks of ‘active rest’ following their demanding playing schedule in the autumn internationals, Heineken Cup and Magners League in recent months.
Prop Marcus Horan, who has been sidelined since coming off in Munster’s Heineken Cup Pool match with Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park in October remains in line to make his return to competitive rugby action this weekend.
Marcus Horan had been due to feature for Shannon in their ODM Munster Senior Cup semi-final clash with UCC at Clifford Park on Saturday last. However, the game fell victim to the current cold snap.
A decision was due this Wednesday on whether Horan would be included in Munster’s squad for Sunday’s Magners League tie with the Scarlets or whether he would feature in Shannon’s squad for their scheduled All-ireland League Division 1A clash with St Mary’s College at templeville Road the previous day.
Munster’s starting line-up to face the Scarlets will be confirmed this Friday.
Munster will be hoping to extend their excellent home record of which has seen the province win each of their last 13 fixtures at Thomond Park and Musgrave Park in all competitions.
Munster’s 22-20 victory over the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets in the Magners League in September made it eight successive wins for the Irish province over the Welsh side.
The Scarlets last victory over Munster was their 24-15 heineken Cup quarter-final victory in March 2007.
The Scarlets’ international fly half Stephen Jones will be an absentee when the Welsh side face Munster this weekend after injuring a shoulder against the Dragons on New Year’s Eve.
The Scarlets’ 14-9 victory over the Dragons ended a four game losing streak in all competitions.

Colm Kinsella

Hurling controversy rages on

LESS than four weeks after Justin McCarthy was given a vote of confidence by a majority of Limerick GAA clubs, the clubs of the county could vent their frustration on the executive officers of the County Board.
Next Tuesday night a specially convened County Board AGM and the first County Board meeting of the New Year will take place in Claughaun. While unconfirmed, a vote of no confidence in the officers of the top table could be proposed.
Just the election of a new Development Officer is on the agenda for the AGM. Among the items on the schedule for the County Board meeting, which follows immediately after the AGM, is the ratification of John Tuohy as a new selector in Justin McCarthy’s management team.


This could hand club delegates the opportunity to speak about the on-going inter-county hurling debacle.
McCarthy and selectors; Brian Ryan, Liam Garvey and new-comer Tuohy were dealt a fresh blow on New Year’s Eve when a further four players withdrew from the panel - Gavin O’Mahony, Tom Condon, Denis Moloney and Stephen Walsh.
The management team are now left with just six members of the 31-strong 2009 panel - Paul Browne (Bruff), Paudie McNamara (Murroe-Boher), David Breen (Na Piarsaigh), Bryan O’Sullivan (Kilmallock), Graeme Mulcahy (Kilmallock) and Dave Moloney (Blackrock).
Limerick’s first competitive game of 2010 is on January 24 when they face either Cork or UCC in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal Cup.
As well as the 12 players that have withdrawn management face further problems selecting a panel for this game as they will not be able to select players currently attending third level college while county champions South Liberties and Blackrock will be in action in their respective All-Ireland club semi-finals. Among those ruled out for the Waterford Crystal Cup because of college commitments will be Bryan O’Sullivan and Graeme Mulcahy (both UCC) and Paul Browne (LIT).
This Tuesday night in UL the new-look Limerick hurling panel trained for the first time.
A total of 27 players attended a they commenced preparations for the Waterford Crystal Cup.
While the Waterford Crystal Cup game is just over two weeks away, Limerick do not open their league campaign until February 21.
In round one of the NHL Limerick entertain Galway and then six days later Cork are visitors to the Gaelic Grounds when the first inter-county hurling fixture takes place under the floodlights.
Over the festive period and prior to the latest withdrawals, a trio of former Limerick hurling managers (Eamonn Cregan, Richie Bennis and Tom Ryan) were quoted in the media calling for Justin McCarthy to step down for the ‘good of Limerick hurling’.
There can be no doubting that the new-look hurling panel will face an uphill battle to record victories, but McCarthy and selectors do have the backing of the executive officers of the County Board and the clubs of the county - the week prior to Christmas, club delegates voted in favour (70-54) of retaining the services of McCarthy as manager for a second season.
The vote meant that Limerick will go forward into the new season without household names such as Brian Geary, Seamus Hickey, Damien Reale, Brian Murray and Donal O’Grady who are all among the 12 players that are wanted by management, but have made themselves unavailable.

Development Officer
Two candidates remain in contention to fill the vacant position of Limerick GAA Development Officer ahead of next Tuesday’s specially convened AGM. Liam O’Sullivan (Claughaun) and Gerry Philips (Monagea) remain in the race to fill the void left by the departure of Eibhear O’Dea.
Were Philips to be elected it would force yet another specially convened AGM as he is the currently entering his fifth year as Limerick GAA Coaching Officer.

Jerome O’Connell

O’Sullivan targets promotion from Division Four

AN extended McGrath Cup campaign is the first target as the Limerick senior footballers embark on their 2010 season this Sunday.
Twelve months ago Limerick were shocked by UL in round one of the McGrath Cup and were subsequently slow to find form in the National Football League and ended up being relegated to Division Four.


This time round Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s side are adamant that they have learned from last season.
On Sunday (2pm) in Fitzgerald Park, Kilmallock Limerick face the students of Waterford IT in round one of the McGrath Cup competition.
“Last year we were knocked out in the first round and then we were caught cold in the league against Louth,” recalled Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
If Limerick are victorious they will be back in action on Sunday week with Cork IT awaiting in the quarter-finals. Were Limerick to advance in the competition their McGrath Cup semi-final opponents could be Clare or UCC.
Sunday marks the first competitive fixture for O’Sullivan as he embarks on his fifth season at the helm on Shannonside - making him the second longest serving inter-county manager behind Tyrone’s Mickey Harte.
In a five-man management team the Kenmare man is joined by selectors Donie Buckley, Maurice Horan, Joe Redington and Paddy Ivess.
The management team held a series of trial games during December to unearth fresh talent.
“No one that was involved in the senior panel already took part in the trial games - it was for new players. The trials were very good and of a high quality. We will be taking a further look at some of them and they will be invited into training for training,” explained Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
The current extended panel are to train two nights a week for January and a number of challenge games are planned to supplement what is hoped will be a prolonged run in the McGrath Cup.
“We will give everyone a chance and then they will all be in the mix when we select a final panel before the league,” explained the manager.
He added: “This is the first time since I got involved that we have serious competition in terms of selecting our panel.”
Limerick open their league campaign with a trip to Ruislip to face London on February 7 and six days later (February 13) Limerick will host Carlow under lights at the Gaelic Grounds.
“We want to get promoted,” said Mickey Ned O’Sullivan of this year’s targets.
“To do that we will have to take it one game at a time, but we want to get promoted.
“There are five or six teams in the league that will think that they have a strong possibility of getting promoted.”
Although only six of Sunday’s selected team started against Meath in the All-Ireland qualifiers last August it is still a vastly-experienced Limerick side.
Ballysteen’s Conor Ranahan (brother of Pa), Fr. Casey’s Eoin Joy and St. Patricks’ John Mullane are all handed their first starts at senior level. With the long-serving goalkeeper Sean Kiely retired, Ranahan has been named in goals, with Mungret’s Barry Moran among the subs.
Mickey Ned said that finding a replacement for Kiely was a top priority: “Sean was an unbelievable servant to Limerick. To think that he was togged out for the Munster final in 1991. I know he wasn’t involved all the time, but that is great longevity. He never missed a training session - you could put him up as a role model for any inter-county footballer.”
The unfortunate Thomas Cahill will be absent when Limerick kick-off the new season, but otherwise most enter the New Year injury-free.
At present Stephen Lucey is the one panellist on the treatment table.
“He had a serious tear of his hamstring, but we are expecting him back by the end of the month - Stephen knows how to care for himself because of his medical background,” added Mickey Ned.
Others not involved in Sunday’s panel are Ger Collins, Cormac Joyce-Power and Eoin Hogan - who are all committed to varying Third Level Colleges for the McGrath Cup.
Waterford IT will have three Limerick club players involved on their panel for this Sunday’s game in Kilmallock - Jimmy Barry-Murphy & Shane Fox of Ballylanders and Richie McCarthy of Blackrock.

LIMERICK V WATERFORD IT
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), Diarmuid Carroll (Arles Kilcruise, Laois); John Galvin (Croom), Eoin Joy (Fr Casey’s); Stephen Kelly (Newcastle West), James Ryan (Galbally), Seanie Buckley, capt (Drom-Broadford); 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).

Jerome O’Connell

Shannon set to meet legal representatives

SHANNON RFC officials are set to meet with their legal representative this Friday to discuss their appeal against a massive €25,000 fine imposed on the club after members were found to have abused match referee George Clancy in the wake of a recent All-Ireland League Division 1A tie.
Members of the Shannon RFC executive met this week to discuss how best to proceed with their appeal against the fine and a suspended six-point deduction imposed on the AIL champions by the IRFU prior to Christmas.
Shannon RFC have until Friday, January 15 to lodge their appeal and will discuss the matter with their legal representative at the end of this week.
Shannon RFC had originally been given 14 days to lodge an appeal against the fine, but the IRFU granted the club an extension until January 15 as a result of the period co-inciding with the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
The €25,000 fine imposed on Shannon 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 last month.
Holders Shannon had been ahead in the game late on, but the awarding of a free-kick and a penalty to Cork Con’ by Limerick match referee George Clancy 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, officials and supporters 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.
Shannon RFC PRO, 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.

Colm Kinsella

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

‘We’re delighted for Stephen’

ALTHOUGH Limerick FC begin their pre-season training programme in just ten days time (January 16) manager Pat Scully does not regard the loss of striker Stephen O’Flynn to Northampton Town as a negative for the club. Instead, Pat Scully regards the O’Flynn move as a positive story, as a compliment to the League of Ireland club.


“To be honest I would not consider Stephen moving to Northampton as a negative story for the club,” Pat Scully explained to Leader Sport.
“I think myself that it’s a positive story. I think it’s a great thing for us. It sends out the message that if you play for Limerick and do well for the club you will get an opportunity to move on. That’s great for a club. Now players know that people respect what we’re doing at the club and that big clubs are paying attention to the talented players we have. That’s a very positive thing in my opinion.”
Striker Stephen O’Flynn signed for the English League Two outfit Northampton Town on Tuesday afternoon. O’Flynn joined the Super Blues last July and since the Mallow man fired in 14 goals in just 13 games for Limerick Pat Scully always suspected that it would prove difficult to retain the services of the talented 27-year-old centre-forward.
“We knew that a couple of clubs were interested in Stephen, but when an English club gets interested it’s very difficult to hold onto a player,” admitted Pat Scully.
“We were very close to signing Stephen before Christmas, but obviously that didn’t work out. In saying that we’re delighted for Stephen. Everyone at the club is. We did our best to encourage him to stay with Limerick and he really did enjoy his time with Limerick. And you never know we could see Stephen in a Limerick jersey again.”
Limerick FC have already signed a number of players for the 2010 season (Jack Allen, Peter Balogh, Daniel Clinton, Derek Daly, Dean Finnan, Ed Gallagher, Aaron Leahy, Darren Lynch, David Njuki, Michael Sheehan, John Boyle, Daryl Kavanagh, Dave Ryan, John Tierney, Martin Deady, Jason Hughes, Thomas Lyons, Shane Tracy, Conor Molan & Brian Collopy) and manager Pat Scully has asked Declan Cahill (formerly of Cobh Ramblers and Cork City) to join the club’s pre-season training camp with a view to possibly signing for the season ahead.
Super Blues supporters will also be heartened to note that Peter White has also joined the club.
“He (Peter White) really is a big signing for us and I’m delighted about it,” added Pat Scully.
“He’s a versatile player in that he can play at the back or in midfield and he’s a great athlete.
“We’re still very hopeful of signing three or four more players, but there’s no real rush as of yet.”
In fact, Pat Scully doesn’t think that Limerick FC need to sign many players. He is confident that, with the talent at his disposal, the current squad can challenge for promotion.
“We don’t need to change the whole thing,” insisted Pat Scully.
“We don’t need to make a lot of signings. We already have some very talented players. We do need to add a few more, but we already have a good squad and there’s no point in signing players unless they are right for the club. We have a strong squad and we are expecting to have a very good season.
“People forget that we were missing people like Pat Purcell, Jason Hughes, Thomas Lyons and Brian O’Callaghan for long periods of last season,” added Pat Scully.
“Then you have a guy like Paul Cummins who missed nearly all of last year. We’re hopeful that Paul will be fit for the start of the new season and with players like him in the team we are expecting to do well.
“It’s not about signing ten or 12 players. We just don’t need them. Another three or four and I would be very happy. I’m very pleased with how things are going.”
Limerick FC have also released details of pre-season friendlies against Premier Division outfits St. Patrick’s Athletic (February 13) and UCD (February 27) - both matches will be played away from home.
The Limerick FC squad will also participate in a pre-season training camp on February 19-21 in the Breaffy House Hotel (Castlebar).
What could, however, really grab the attention of local soccer fans is a potential clash between Kilmurry Lodge Premier League champions Pike Rovers and Limerick FC in the quarter-finals of the Munster Senior Cup. As a League of Ireland club Limerick FC are exempt from the early rounds of the competition, but now await either Pike Rovers or St. Mary’s (Munster Senior League) in the last eight. Should the Hoops beat St. Mary’s they will enjoy home advantage against the Super Blues in what could prove an extremely entertaining encounter.
Limerick FC have also launched a number of new initiatives to help raise funds for the club - full details of these are available on: limerickfc.ie. Entry to the club’s ‘Last Man Standing’ competition costs just €20 while supporters of the club can now play Leo’s Lotto online - the first weekly draw will take place on January 21 with a €1,000 jackpot up for grabs (tickets cost €2).
Limerick FC has also purchased two ten-year Vantage Club Tickets for the Aviva Stadium and an annual draw will be held to allocate these tickets to one lucky supporter - tickets for the draw cost just €20.
Meanwhile the Republic of Ireland under-16 manager John Morling has named Fairview Rangers’ Rhys Healy in his 18-strong squad for an international double-header away to Israel on Monday, January 11 and Wednesday, January 13. The squad will travel to Tel Aviv this weekend.
Republic of Ireland under-16 squad: Steven Smith (Arsenal), Carel TioFack (Ballincollig AFC), Adam Evans, Darragh Lenihan, Eoin Hyland, Kealan Dillon (all Belvedere), Conor O’Donnell (Buncrana Hearts), Shane Griffin (Carrigaline Utd), Brandon Miele, Jamie Smith, Luke Gallagher (all Cherry Orchard), Michael Drennan (Evergreen), Rhys Healy (Fairview Rangers), Joseph Coll (Glenea Utd), Sami Ade Osobe (Glenmuir Utd), James Murphy (Reading), John Kavanagh (Ringmahon Rangers) & Kenneth McEvoy (Villa FC).

BRIAN MCDONNELL