Five Days in July 2022
Things can happen quickly in the world of sport; blink sometimes and you might miss something.
And by any standard the past weekend has seen seismic events that have resonated throughout
Thursday 14th July
We wake to the news that Colm Bonnar is no longer the manager of the Tipperary Senior Hurling
Team. And, whilst his removal was not totally unexpected, it still seemed sudden and somewhat
precipitous. Shane Brophy had broken a story the previous day in the Nenagh Guardian, citing
sources, close to the top table, who believed Bonnar’s position was under threat. However, the
following day that threat had been realised and Bonnar was gone. The media release that informed
the public of his departure was less than ideal. Indeed, the press release angered more people than
the actual removal of Bonnar did. A lot of reasonable Tipperary supporters admitted that a change
was needed. What most did not like, however, was the wording of the statement which included the
now infamous term, ‘relieved of his duties.’ That line more than suggested an acrimonious split
between manager and county board. Reading between the lines it suggests that the Manager
wanted more time to steady the ship and see out at least another year of his three-year term.
Tipperary do not ordinarily remove managers after a single year in charge. The last occasion I can
recall this happening was back in 2003 when Michael Doyle resigned unexpectantly after a single
year at the helm. His resignation statement referred to player unrest and conceded that this was a
factor that had led to his decision. Had he not resigned, might he have been relieved of his duties by
the county board? That we will never know but Doyle felt the game was up and he was faced with
Not so on this occasion. Bonnar never wanted to go and said as much to Noel Dundon of the
Tipperary Star that afternoon. He told the Tipperary Live website that he had been making plans for
the 2023 season when the bombshell was dropped by the Executive Committee of the County
‘I am extremely disappointed with the decision of the executive committee of Tipperary GAA
regarding my position as Tipperary senior hurling manager ‘, Bonner was quoted as saying. He had
taken the Tipp job last year for a three-year term, in good faith. He knew that yearly reviews would
be part of his reign but was also sanguine about the task in hand when he took on the job. He was
pragmatic enough to know that Tipp were in a rebuilding phase and patience would be required. He said so when he was appointed. Yet now, he was to be held to a higher standard, one absent of
Nine competitive games in 2022, six defeats. Two of the three wins were against Laois and Antrim.
An early season loss to Kerry. These are grim statistics. But never mind the statistics, look at the
performances. One only has to look at the Clare and Cork games in Thurles to know that this was not
a team in rebuilding mode. This was a team going backwards. How much of a further slide could the
County Board endure? Little to none as it turned out. And the yearly review brought closure on the
Bonnar era with the Tipperary hurlers.
Was it the correct decision? Well, I will leave that for you to decide. Was it managed correctly?
Absolutely not. But the rumour mill in this county is like a runaway train, and the County Board
needed to be in control of the story. A 15-man committee heard a presentation from Bonnar the
previous evening after which, it seems, the decision was made to seek a new appointment. That
story was never going to stay within the four walls if there were as many as fifteen officials present.
And so, to try and remain in control of the story, a media release was hurriedly put together and
sent out. It served only to garner sympathy for Bonnar with the tone and words used. But the story
was moving on.
Friday 15th July
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigns after 522 days in charge. Colm Bonnar was only given
309 days in charge.
In other news, Liam Cahill has decided to resign from the Waterford Hurling manager position. Or as
the Waterford media release put it; ‘Liam Cahill has decided not to take up the option of a fourth
year as Manager of the Waterford Senior Hurling Team.’ So reading between the lines of this
statement, Waterford wanted Cahill to stay on, Cahill had had enough and was hightailing it back
home to Tipperary and bringing his second in command Michael Bevans with him. Around 24 hours
after Colm Bonnars dismissal from the Tipperary equivalent, the Waterford manager and Ballingarry
native Liam Cahill is a free agent. Speculation mounts and everyone is putting two and two together.
Saturday 16th July
The Irish rugby team create history by becoming the first country in the professional era to win a test
match series in New Zealand. Up to last week they had never beaten the top ranked team in the
world on their own patch. Now, a week on, and they not only win again, this time in Wellington, but
clinch the series 2-1. Great, Unprecedented, Brilliant and Unbelievable (GUBU) as Charles Haughey
might have said.
Over on the Old Course at St. Andrew’s Rory McIlroy will head into the final day at the 150 th British
Open Championship in the lead. An extraordinary weekend of Irish sport beckons.
Sunday 17th July
Try as he might, Rory cannot buy a putt. Nothing will drop for him on the dry, fast greens of St.
Andrew’s. His lead is chased down by Australian Cameron Smith, whose putting is the mirror image
of Rory’s. Five successive birdies on the back nine and Rory needs a miracle to happen, he needs a
putt to drop. McIlroy eventually finishes third and will have a long winter to reflect on what might
have been. Isn’t that what makes golf the most brilliantly entertaining and most brilliantly infuriating
game to watch and play.
Over on Jones Road meanwhile, Limerick are flexing their muscles against Kilkenny. Up in the RTE
studio, the panel have something to say about the removal of Colm Bonnar the previous Thursday.
Liam Sheedy, like the rest of us, has been adding two plus two and getting a nice neat four. Sheedy
believed that if Cahill were to be offered the Tipperary job, and he fully expected that he would,
then he expected Cahill to take it. Clare man Anthony Daly describes it as tough on the Cashel
native. He lists the players unavailable to Colm and notes how hard a job it was going to be. Daly felt
that Bonnar had given the job a ‘fair rattle’ and he deserved another year at least. Donal Óg Cusack
was never going to mince his words. ‘Brutal’ was his assessment off the medial release. He reminded
everyone present that Bonnar was an amateur, who was motivated primarily out of a love for his
county and a love of hurling. And to then be ‘relieved of his duties’ was a brutal use of words.
Out on the pitch, Limerick huff and puff but eventually brush aside a Kilkenny team that just would
not go away. You would have to hand it to Brian Cody all the same. (Difficult sentence to type). Has
he ever sent out a team that wasn’t competitive? Two second half goals put the fear of God into
Limerick and their supporters, most of whom were on Jones Road back in 1994. They then spent
many years trying to get over the events of that day. Surely, they couldn’t snatch defeat from the
jaws of victory again. Not this time. Limerick did enough to secure their fourth title in five years and
only their 11th of all time. Their manager, John Kiely, conducts an impressive orchestra of players and
backroom staff but always gets a tune out of the ensemble. Possibly the third greatest hurling
manager ever. Behind Paddy Leahy and Brian Cody? Back home in Tipperary we reflect on our own
season and wonder when we will be competitive against the Limerick kingpins. The gap might not be
a gulf, but it is not that narrow either.
Monday 18th July.
I was sitting in Tipp FM Towers, 15 minutes into another edition of the ‘Extra Time’ programme and
an extraordinary statement is released by Cashel King Cormack’s GAA Club. The home club of Colm
Bonner weighs in behind their man and reminds us all (in case we had forgotten) of Colm’s sterling
service to Tipperary hurling. The club conveyed its ‘disappointment’ and indeed ‘disgust’ at the
actions of the County Board and took exception to the wording of the press release.
No sooner had this statement been digested than another press release is pinging inside our in-tray
announcing Liam Cahill as the new manager of the Tipperary Senior Hurling team. The Ballingarry
man is given a three-year term and will be joined by Toomevara’s Michael Bevans. You have to love
A whirlwind of a week for both Bonnar and Cahill. At the start of the week, Colm had no idea that his
time with the Tipp hurlers was nearing an end. He was preparing his presentation of where he was
and where he was going with the Tipp team and would put his position clearly before the County
Board the following Wednesday. Did Liam Cahill know at the start of the week that his time in
Waterford was nearing an end? Probably. He might well have made his mind up as soon as
Waterford exited the Championship without qualifying from the round robin. The fact that he waited
until the Tipp job was vacant before announcing his departure is noteworthy. He gave an interview
to Marty Morrissey of RTE and was keen to put on the record the sequence of events.
“I want to be very clear that I received a phone call a short time after Colm Bonnar’s exit from the
Tipperary job. For me, second time around, it was very simple. The answer was yes and it went from
So, a tumultuous five days in sport draws to an end. And I have only used seventy-four words on the
Irish team winning in New Zealand. All politics is local as Tipp O’Neill might say.