By Damian Dolan
Former Warwickshire manager Tony Joyce says London hurling is in need a “boost” right now, and he could just be the man to provide it.
The Antrim-native, who steered the midlanders to Lory Meagher success in 2017 and to a Nicky Rackard final last year, has emerged as a contender for the vacant London hurling manager’s position.
Joyce would certainly seem to have the credentials.
As well as his success with Warwickshire, he was at the helm as Birmingham’s John Mitchel’s ended their nine-year wait for an All-Britain title in November, beating London’s Thomas McCurtains in the final.
After taking a year out to focus on his business, he’s now “keen” to get back in “amongst the players in the dressing room” again.
Currently doing some coaching with London club Robert Emmetts, one senses the chance to manage in the Christy Ring might be too big a temptation for Joyce to pass up.
“It’s the best job in the country,” Joyce told the Irish World. “They’re not in a great place right now, but there’s a lot of good hurling people down there.
“It’s more whether they’d (the county board) be interested in chatting with me. I’d definitely be interested, if the phone call came.”
He added: “There is an absolute pandora of hurlers in London, compared to Warwickshire. To get 25 good hurlers out wouldn’t be that much of a task I don’t think, if the set-up is right.
“London needs a boost at this moment in time. It needs a manager coming in, in the next five or six weeks to really get prepared early to get London back to where they need to be.
“There’s not many games won over the last couple years, so you’d need to start winning and get the happiness back in the camp.”
Joyce’s record as Warwickshire manager was an impressive played 24, won 21, one draw and two losses.
The team also went 16 games unbeaten – a run only ended at Croke Park by Donegal in the Rackard final of 2018.
In addition to last year’s All-Britain triumph, he also managed Mitchels to provincial success in 2010 – beating Granuaile in the decider.
Joyce can expect some, if not all, of his rivals for the position to have a greater knowledge of London hurling and its players, but he doesn’t see that as a major stumbling block.
He regularly managed side’s against London opposition, at both county and club level, and says he already has a good knowledge of the players.
“I’m down there (London) most weeks watching games. I’d know the prominent players in all the clubs fairly well. There’s not much you wouldn’t know about the London hurlers,” he said.
The key for Joyce is ensuring that the London set-up is right, to make sure players want to be involved.
“If your set-up is right, players will be keen to get involved. If it’s not, they’ll be staying away,” he added.
“It needs a good inter-county set-up; strength and conditioning, and everybody to be on the same wavelength – the players, management and county board.”
An added incentive to the job for Joyce is the lure of possibly coming up against Offaly in the Christy Ring, and bringing them to McGovern Park, Ruislip.
“If that fixture ever came about, for hurling people it would be a great spectacle to see Offaly in London. At this moment you wouldn’t fear them, the place that they’re in.”
On the flip-side, London’s relegation to Division 2B for next year would also pit him against Warwickshire, the side with whom he enjoyed such success. Now, that would make for an interesting meeting.