By Damian Dolan
Warwickshire have confirmed the appointment of Chris Brough as its new hurling manager, following the departure of Tony Joyce.
Brough was the team’s trainer under Joyce and further continuity is provided by John Mitchel’s Johnny Gardiner, who remains part of the management set-up
He also hopes to enlist the services of someone from Nottingham’s St Barnabas club.
“Chris has hit the ground running and he’s very keen,” Warwickshire county board secretary Michael Collins told the Irish World.
Birmingham-born, Brough came through the underage set-up at John Mitchels and has gone on to enjoy a long and successful career at club and county level.
Most notably, he was part of the Exiles’ historic Lory Meagher Cup success in 2013, starting the final at corner back.
He was also part of the panel under Joyce when they repeated that success in 2017.
Brough also won an Allianz HL Div 3B medal in 2015 and was named on the Lory Meager Cup Champion team for 2011.
Injury brought an early end to his involvement with Warks last year, and subsequently ruled him out of the Exiles’ Allianz HL Div 3A win and the team’s run to the Nicky Rackard Cup final. It also forced him to sit out John Mitchel’s county and All-Britain triumphs.
Warwickshire will be keen to shrug off last year’s Nicky Rackard final defeat to Donegal, but they have a huge challenge ahead of them after last year’s promotion.
They open their Div 2B campaign against Christy Ring Cup semi-finalists Wicklow at Pairc na hEireann on 26 January. And doesn’t get any easier for the Exiles from there.
They then face Christy Ring winner’s Kildare, Nicky Rackard champions Donegal, Derry (Christy Ring semi-finalists) and Down, who only missed out on reaching last year’s Christy Ring semi-finals on points difference from London and Derry.
“It’s a massive step up; Kildare are flying and you’ve the likes of Donegal and Wicklow,” said Collins. “It’s a big ask and we’ve lost players, but we’ve also had a few in. The lads are all out training and we’ve had good numbers.”
Gone are Niall McKenna and Donal Nugent – “two big losses” admits Collins. Sharpshooter McKenna, in particular, played a huge role in the side’s journey to Croke Park and its league win.
On the flip side, Warwickshire welcome back the experienced Emmet McCabe, who was not involved with the panel last year, and Collins has hopes for a few other quality additions.
“We’ve lost some good lads, but the ones who’ve come in look pretty handy as well,” said Collins, who concedes that it was also a blow to lose the services of Joyce following his decision to step down.
“He’s a huge loss; over the two years he took us to a different level. He brought Gavin Duffy in with him last year and he’s a top-level coach. They’re both going to be big shoes to fill,” he said.