BY DENIS HURLEY
IT’S a perennial problem for managers of divisional teams, finding a timeslot to suit everybody.
For Gene O’Driscoll and the Carbery football side, however, this year has proven worse than most – Thursday night will be the first chance for the panel to gather. With championship against Ilen Rovers just three days later in Castlehaven (2.15pm), it’s far from ideal.
‘It’s absolutely crazy,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘We sat down with our liaison officer, Donal Leahy, to look at the dates available as to when we could get together for training or a challenge match as we didn’t want to have just ten or 12, you need a decent number.
‘With everything – Cork commitments, club commitments at intermediate and junior – it has been impossible, and Thursday night is the first time that we’ll gather as a panel.
‘Even then, it’s like last year in that Bantry are playing on the same weekend as ourselves but obviously that was a very unfortunate situation in that they had to reschedule their game, so you just take it on the chin.
‘It’s a step into the unknown for us but the group has been together for a few years and we’re used to this.’
Even with a lack of preparation time, Carbery can still boast a strong squad. The evergreen Graham Canty of Bantry Blues remains one of the key leaders, while Alan O’Connor (St Colum’s) should also be involved, pending clearance from the Cork camp.
O’Driscoll’s sons, Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh trio Colm, Kevin and Brian, will also feature, the latter having been passed fit after a shoulder problem, with an operation postponed until later in the year.
Another Bantry man, Ruairí Deane, and Mark Sugrue of Bandon should figure in the attack while former Cork U21 Don O’Driscoll (Clann na nGael) is a notable addition, having missed last year.
In the manager’s eyes, the championship structure will always make things difficult, but there is no silver bullet. A bigger problem though is the knock-on effect at intercounty level.
‘I don’t think that there’s any one thing that can solve everything, there is a plethora of factors,’ he says.
‘I think that we have far too many meaningless games. People are wondering why Cork aren’t doing well or why the U21s didn’t put in a better performance against Kerry, but we have created players to play rather than players to win.
‘You look at the leagues in Kerry, fellas put themselves on the line for two points whereas here the leagues are only about fulfilling fixtures.
‘Guys aren’t battle-hardened and you’ve a lot of teams up senior only codding themselves, winning one game to survive at a level they probably shouldn’t be at.’
What can be done? The aims of the new Club Players’ Association are laudable, but it is a long process to turn things around, and it may already be too late.
‘The biggest threat to the GAA is the GAA itself,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘You can’t give a player a proper calendar of games and that means that guys are going away to America for the summer or going off playing soccer or rugby and it’s hard to blame them.
‘I think the tipping point has been reached. Not every household is obsessed with GAA and more and more you’ll see fellas doing what fits better into their schedule and that may not be GAA.’