TJ Ryan – Era.
There was hardly any surprise in Limerick hurling circles that TJ Ryan announced his decision to not carry on as Limerick Senior Hurling Manager next season last night. A loss to local rivals Clare in the championship last weekend where Limerick struggled for long periods of the contest sealed his fate.
Ryan’s legacy will be a mixed bag truth be told. He was fearless when taking on the job three years ago after a sorry episode when Cork man Donal O’Grady walked away in farcical circumstances. 2013 was a successful season advancing to the All Ireland Semi-Final where they competed well at a rain soaked Croke Park against Kilkenny. A defeat yes, but high hopes arose from the defeat given the work rate on show.
With optimism high, the following two seasons have being underwhelming to say the least and failure to not get Limerick out of NHL 1B was a massive disappointment no more so than this season when the winner take all game against Clare in Ennis produced a tepid performance from the Treaty County men, a couple of weeks when Na Piarsaigh were crowned All Ireland Senior Club champions.
A win against Dublin at Parnell Park in the NHL quarter-final (which was a false dawn considering Dublin’s season) created some hope but this was unceremoniously squashed with an awful drubbing at the hands of Waterford in the NHL semi-final, a game where Limerick’s late adoption of the sweeper system was wholly exposed. Ronan Lynch was dispensed to the intermediates as a result and Limerick management were frankly at odds at how to play the system.
The Munster Championship was not much better; despite playing with a man advantage for a huge portion of the game, Limerick lacked fight and hunger in their defeat at the hands of Tipperary whose work rate, first touch and overall play were far superior. No Limerick genuine game plan to get their forward line into the game with aimless ball distribution from the back line.
The decision to install Gavin O’Mahoney at half-back with a rookie full back behind him was duly punished by the Premier County and the close margin of defeat could not deflect from a miserable display. A lethargic performance against Westmeath was the prelude to the elimination from the championship last weekend.
Ryan could not be faulted for his commitment but his tactical nous particularly in the last two seasons were self-evident. The players and their body language in these seasons sealed the Garryspillane’s club man fate. Ryan owes nothing to the county. It is time to reflect and choose the right managerial appointment to coach some exciting underage talent going forward.
Who are the front runners for the managerial job?
There are a couple of names in the ring already and suspect that there could be one or two surprises come the end of the nomination process. The front-runner would appear to be current U21 manager John Kiely whose charges won the All Ireland last season.
The Abbey CBS Principal has also seen success in second level school level with an All Ireland success last season. Kiely has worked with several current and incumbent Limerick players such as Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch, Diarmuid Byrnes, Richie English, Peter Casey, Dan / Tom Morrissey. If Limerick are looking to hire from within the current coaching structures, Kiely could fit the bill provided that a quality backroom management team is created among him.
If Limerick County Board and club delegates who will ultimately decide the appointment feel that Kiely is not the man for the job, then the Ciaran Carey / Mark Foley combo management may tick the boxes. The Limerick men are currently managing the Kerry Senior team to a promising debut season in NHL 1B and subsequent cameo in the Leinster Hurling Championship taking the scalp of Laois and Carlow along the way.
Their coaching style has continued the good work and foundations created by Eamonn Kelly. Their love for Limerick hurling is unquestioned. The heart and passion which was sadly missing in Limerick’s play this season would be reintroduced and their knowledge of getting the best out of the likes of Cian Lynch would be big plus. This is the dark horse management ticket for the role.
Dinny Cahill will no doubt look to see if he has any support within the county to launch a bid for the county job. The Tipp native is a well regarded coach and joined the county setup last season as a skills coach. The fact that club delegates had issues with his appointment may be a distinct downside but a hurling man of this caliber cannot be ditched immediately. Cahill may not be the next manager but his influence in how Limerick evolve their hurling skills is a necessity.
Anthony Daly and his association with the Limerick underage setup will prompt speculation on his chances of taking the job but to be honest, it will be long odds on him taking the role. Limerick may be reluctant to punt on an outsider. His managerial credentials speak volumes. His Dublin management tenure looks superb when you consider how the county have gone with Ger Cunningham at the helm. Daly may be eyeing a national GAA coaching role. The lure of Clare may be too much as well for the Clarecastle native to put his hat in the ring.
The other dark horse for the role could be Na Piarsaigh All Ireland Club manager Shane O’Neill. The former Limerick half-forward’s management of NAP last season was sensational and his side caught the eye with some classy performances added with work rate and hunger. O’Neill and his relationship with the likes of Dowling and Downes who should be leading forward line figures in the team is a big plus. Time will tell if the solicitor would even consider putting his name forward but a guy of this caliber and intellect would be a must for any prospective Limerick Senior Hurling backroom staff.
John Kiely’s to lose at this time but if Limerick U21 were to be knocked out of the Munster U21 Championship this week, Limerick hurling followers could be looking at their options. An interesting couple of months beckon down in Shannonside.