When JP McManus was a major shareholder in Manchester United he and Coolmore chief John Magnier made life hell for Alex Ferguson for a while over the stand-off involving the breeding rights to Rock of Gibraltar. Bloodstock being thicker than water and all that, the Cubic Expression duo had a 99-question dossier compiled on corporate governance at the club, with much of the focus on Fergie’s influence on fiscal matters.
The down-to-earth lord of Adare Manor (where Tiger Woods is reportedly headed in July) has thus far remained removed, at least publicly, from the war within Limerick hurling: a crying game which he’s been bankrolling for years.
The crisis became more acute on Sunday as Dublin put the Shannonsiders to the sword in their Division One relegation decider in Parnell Park. The Treatymen shipped 6-30 in what was their first test against a team that had to win. God knows what a better side that Anthony Daly’s might have scored.
A few weeks ago I felt that following the clubs’ effective vote of confidence in Justin McCarthy the County Board had no option but to allow him continue in charge. His mandate mightn’t have been clear but it was upheld by an all-too-silent majority.
The consensus had basically told the 2009 panel to get lost. At that time the new-look Limerick hadn’t disgraced themselves in the National League, unlike the since discarded old guard in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary.
By culling what he saw as the culprits so early in the close season, McCarthy was declaring that the players were to blame for that capitulation in Croker, not him.
Still, his reasons for getting rid of those who he’d have seen as having let him down (and in danger of stabbing him in the back; once-bitten etc) were self-serving, clumsy and some would say characteristically arrogant.
Last month a sufficient number of CLG ‘units’ in Luimneach tended to agree with him, their approval of his stewardship faulting the on-field commitment, not the tactics. And looking at how far and how fast Richie Bennis’s charges fell so soon after the ‘highs’ of 2007 (when they mugged McCarthy’s jaded Waterford), the players were by no means blameless.
However, after last weekend’s slaughter of the innocents (which, when you’re practically pitting junior journeymen against senior stars, was bound to happen eventually) said same club members are already reaching for the panic button.
Limerick’s opening championship assignment, a Munster semi-final against Cork or Tipp (which they’d be unlikely to win even with all hands on deck and harmony in the air) isn’t until June 20th. So if there is to be a move to put Justin out of his own and everyone else’s misery it’d better be now. After all, in 2008 the Waterford hurlers, who, in their view had done hardly any training of worth up ’til then, decided McCarthy’s autocratic style was no longer for them, took the plunge, and went all the way to that All-Ireland final.
McManus’s message after Sunday is “fingers crossed” and “never give up”, citing his recent Grand National success with Don’t Push It at the 33rd time of trying. True, but when he did win one he’d Tony McCoy at the reins – and he wasn’t flogging a dead horse either.