Justin McCarthy and Richie Bennis at close quarters during the 2007 Munster Final.

Justin McCarthy and Richie Bennis at close quarters during the 2007 Munster Final.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but it seems the only GAA managers who can rely on full player co-operation these days are the ‘Celebrity Bainisteoir’ variety with their alleged quick fixes.


With Mike McNamara having fallen slowly on his sword, Ger O’Loughlin’s appointment as Clare hurling manager won’t make Waterford’s task any easier come June bank holiday Monday (and what on earth were the Munster Council thinking there, if anything?).

Davy Fitzgerald openly promoted his business partner and former team-mate ‘Sparrow’ for the post. Having got their way, the Clare players (possibly with Gerry Quinn and Tony Griffin back in harness) will really be out to prove the bloodshed was worthwhile, and what looked on paper like a handy draw for Waterford now looks like being a seriously tough Thurles assignment.

However, it’s certainly more positive from our point of view to hear Davy urging the Clare board to give O’Loughlin a few years before passing judgment, meaning his focus is clearly on the job at hand here – and integrating newcomers with the old reliables will require diplomacy as much as coaching.

One man who hasn’t quite been using tact as a tactic is Justin McCarthy, who is still holding on in the face of what will inevitably be overwhelming odds in Limerick, what with four more players joining the ranks of the disaffected this week, leaving just six left of the 30 linked to last year’s All-Ireland semi-final massacre by Tipp.

Former Limerick manager Tom Ryan reckons McCarthy is doing “immense damage” to hurling in the county through his intransigence. His old enemies on the board are “a laughing stock”, he added, intimating that there’s an elephant in the room that no-one dare address. (Long-time Limerick GAA benefactor and de facto decision-maker JP McManus, perhaps?)

Justin’s predecessor Richie Bennis, who didn’t exactly leave barroom/boardroom feathers unruffled himself before he was shown the door, says it’s a mess of McCarthy’s making and he should be made clean it up, even if it takes four years – by which time he’ll be two years into his bus pass.

It’s sad to think that McCarthy’s fine coaching career will be stained by this saga; a skilled but obdurate man left fighting a battle that with the best will in the world he, like his namesake Gerald in their native Cork, was never going to win.

As the late, trailblazing science-fiction writer Fred Saberhagen surmised, “If people ask me for the ingredients of success, I say one is talent, two is stubbornness or determination, and third is sheer luck. You have to have two out of the three. Any two will probably do.”

Which means McCarthy is going to need a hell of a lot of the latter. Yet even a successful gambler like JP knows you make most of your own luck.