Ryan expects joint venture with O’Grady will work out fine
But Cork in Division IB a tough opener for Limerick co-managers
Limerick joint hurling managers Donal O’Grady, left, and TJ Ryan face a tough Division 1B League opener against Cork. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
TJ Ryan pauses for thought when asked for his definition of a joint manager, probably because there isn’t one. It won’t mean himself and Donal O’Grady will agree
on every decision they make for Limerick hurling this season, although that doesn’t mean Ryan doesn’t see them getting along just fine.
“Well from a work point of view, I actually run a business with another guy,” says Ryan, who along with O’Grady, took over the Limerick hurling job when John Allen stepped down at the end of last season.
“From a hurling point of view I haven’t done it before. But I have worked with Donal before (as a selector, in 2011). So we get on well, have a good working relationship.
“Donal is really into the coaching side, looks after that and does it very well. But for all of the decisions we will sit down together. We also have Paul Beary as selector and Mark Lyons as strength and conditioning coach, and a selector too.
“So it’s really a management team rather than anything else. I also think the traditional way of picking teams has changed. Now you sit down and discuss things and try and do the best you can.”
It is a model that has worked before – former Armagh joint football managers Brian McAlinden and Brian Canavan delivering back-to-back Ulster titles in 1999 and 2000, for example – and what is certain is Ryan knows Limerick hurling. He won his first Munster title in 1994, as a 19-year-old, and another in 1996; Ryan also won a league title in 1997, and later served as captain.
It’s true he knows O’Grady too – working with Cork’s former All-Ireland winning hurling manager when he previously took charge of Limerick for one season, in 2010-2011, and welcomed the chance to work with him again.
“I suppose I just can’t leave it alone, love the game, have been involved in it all my life. When the opportunity came to work with Donal it was a no- brainer for me.”
Limerick’s opening game, set for Saturday evening, sends them down against O’Grady’s old charges, to Cork, back in Division 1B:
“Yeah, it’s a difficult assignment first night out going to Páirc Uí Rinn,” says Ryan.
“They’d a good win in the league on the first night last year. They were 30 seconds away from winning an All-Ireland. That’s the kind of team you’ll be playing against. Really good opposition. But we’ll be going down to try to win it.
“As well as that in 1B this year, there’s only one team that gets promoted. So it is a very big game.”
Limerick won’t be recalling the Na Piarsaigh players Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes, Cathal King, David Breen and Alan Dempsey until later in the league, following their defeat last weekend in the All-Ireland semi-final.
But Ryan’s hope is they can build on the Munster success of last summer, despite the disappointing All-Ireland semi-final showing against Clare.
“I suppose in this sport you’re only as good as your last game, and unfortunately in our last game Limerick got beaten. It would be unnatural not to be disappointed.
“From the lads’ point of view, they’re looking forward. They have the pre-season and the difficult part of it done. Now it’s about trying to kick on and get into the new season and there’s optimism all round.
“But it’s hard to know. We’re all starting off from the same position right now. We’ll be looking to get the best team we can on the field, get a few breaks.
“It’s about building a little bit of momentum, try to get a couple of wins and get the wheels in motion again.”