Prior to Limerick facing Wexford in a must win game at the end of the 2017 championship it was announced that Darragh O’Grady would be in charge of the team for the game due to John Tuohy being on holidays. Shortly after that, Mark Dunne was relieved of his duties as Galway manager with the county board citing his selector Niall Corcoran’s involvement in the coaching of players from other counties as the reason.
Fast forward nine months and John Tuohy has left his role following league semi-final defeat to Cork citing work commitments as the reason, with some rumblings on the ground in Limerick about player unhappiness with the situation before that Wexford game.
Consequently strength coach Declan Nash has taken the managerial reins but his two new additions to the staff? Mark Dunne and Niall Corcoran. It is to this unusual backdrop that I catch up with Caoimhe Costelloe as they ramp up their preparations. I ask Costelloe what the mood in the camp is like at the moment and how the change has impacted on Championship preparations.
Costelloe is quick to point out the impact Tuohy had on Limerick camogie over the past three seasons “John took us to a level that we had never been at before, delivering a first senior trophy [2017 Munster Championship] and we have the height of respect for what he helped us achieve, but he had his reasons for leaving and we have no choice now but to row in behind the remaining management and move on together.”
Dunne and ex-Dublin hurler but Galway native Corcoran come to Limerick with big reputations. They went on record in the media last year as feeling very harshly done by in Galway and Dunne made a statement about county board interference in team preparation. The old adage of two sides to every story comes to mind but whatever the reasons, the outcome was that Dunne and Corcoran now find themselves donning green and not maroon for the 2018 Championship.
A change can be as good as a rest, and while it’s too early to judge the new arrivals on their on field results, Costelloe does acknowledge a new energy around the squad. “Anything new will always bring energy. It’s not necessarily better, just different, and there has been a freshness to preparations in the last few weeks.”
I get the feeling from Costelloe that she just wants to focus on results and she speaks freely about needing to get that one big win.
“I’ve been on winning Limerick teams against Cork in a Minor All-Ireland final and a Munster senior final, but I’ve lost three national league semi finals to them.”
“We need to figure out as a squad what’s holding us back on the big day. I think if we can get one big win under our belts on the big stage that we have the talent in the squad to drive on to greater things.”
Costelloe won’t have to wait too long for that first shot at a big scalp with perennial challengers Kilkenny rolling into town on the back of a highly impressive national league victory in April.
This is a daunting task for Limerick but as Clare will testify last season, the Cats can be vulnerable in the group stages, often with an eye on bigger challenges later in the summer.
“I don’t want to say anything that Ann Downey will be pinning to the wall of the dressing room in June,” laughs Costelloe, “but the reality of the situation is that we need to take a big scalp soon. And If we don’t believe that we can then we may as well pack it in.”
Limerick open their campaign at home to Kilkenny on the 9th of June followed by an away trip to neighbours Clare on the 16th.
Columnist with GAAWrap and current Éire Óg Ennis Senior Hurling coach.