O'Brien rages with McCarthy
Ex-Limerick hurler launches fresh attack on manager
JUSTIN McCARTHY may have won his political battle with the 'striking' Limerick hurlers, but that hasn't quelled a fresh attack on his managerial reign by one of the players he controversially dropped last autumn.
Mike O'Brien has revealed the full extent of his fury over the manner in which McCarthy cut 12 players from his panel last October and, in the process, inferred that some of them had been dropped because of disciplinary issues.
A non-drinker and non-smoker, the Glenroe farmer accepts that an inter-county career which began in 1998 is now over. But he is still seething over how the manager went about his squad cull, is damning of his managerial performance last year, and is bemused over how more Limerick club delegates (including his own) came out and backed McCarthy last Tuesday following four heavy league defeats on the spin.
His comments come against the backdrop of fresh reports suggesting that McCarthy himself could make contact with some of the disaffected players in a bid to strengthen his desperately inexperienced squad for the looming Munster championship campaign.
However, at this juncture, all the vibes suggest that few if any of the senior players will return. O'Brien's biggest gripe originates in the local newspaper interview given by the Limerick boss around the time of his original cull.
"When your time is up, your time is up," he is quoted as saying. "I'm 32 years of age and if Justin McCarthy felt I was no longer of any use to him, if he had picked up the phone and told me 'You're not in my plans for 2010', I would have had no problem with that, none whatsoever. It was only a matter of common courtesy. Any time I wasn't able to make training - and that wasn't very often, I can tell you - I'd pick up the phone and contact Justin.
"To pick up your local paper then and read that you were dropped because of disciplinary problems - I never wanted any kind of praise for anything I did, I did it because I wanted to do it, but I don't want to read that kind of stuff in the paper either, people who don't know me getting that impression.
"That I found really hard to take, and still do. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I travel 30 miles into training, 30 miles home again afterwards, often got home at nearly midnight. Many an evening I had to leave my father here to finish the cows for me, a man in his late 70s, so I could rush in to training.
"I prepared for every championship game like it was my last, and even in the league I had the same attitude. There was never any messing, I always prepared to the letter of the law - no-one can tell me that my preparation was ever less than 100 per cent."
O'Brien was equally adamant that the other axed players did not have disciplinary questions to answer. "I've heard the rumours, and it's bullshit. We never lost a championship match because of drinking, we lost because we weren't good enough on the day," he maintained, adding that McCarthy had often told them during the year that they were "one of the best teams to train" that he ever coached.
The Limerick veteran was critical of McCarthy's training regime and quality of coaching. "There's far too much focus on the players in all of this, and not enough on the manager, nor the county board," he argued. "Ask yourself this - how many Limerick players went well last year? If three or four students fail their exams from a class of 30, you might blame the students, but if all 30 fail, who do you blame?
"And yet, after losing to Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final by 24 points, Justin was never called in by the board and asked to explain what had gone wrong.
Instead, he cuts 12 guys from the panel, without a phone call, with an inference that it was because of a lack of discipline, and again he's not asked for an explanation."