BY KIERAN McCARTHY
WHAT’S it going to take for Cork GAA clubs to stand up and say enough is enough?
Last Sunday’s embarrassing Munster SFC semi-final defeat to Tipperary was another dark day for Cork GAA – and this county’s clubs cannot stand idly by and let this continue.
This latest loss wasn’t only a result of what happened on the field in Thurles last weekend, it’s the result of a number of different factors that have collided together to create a perfect storm that is tossing Cork GAA around like a piece of paper on a windy day.
The county board needs to accept the majority of the responsibility in creating this rocky road that has led both the Cork senior football and hurling teams to this sorry present state. They can’t be above criticism – and they need to be held accountable for their actions that have contributed to this mess.
Yes, the Cork management and players must also shoulder blame for last Sunday. Certain players aren’t senior inter-county standard and must be rooted out, the management have questions to answer too, and it would help if the manager Peadar Healy would talk more to the written media.
In the arranged press conference before the Tipp game, he wasn’t available to comment. After the defeat in Thurles, he didn’t talk to the written media. That’s not good enough from an inter-county manager.
But dig a bit deeper, Healy isn’t at all comfortable in front of a microphone or camera, he’s wary of the media and how words can be taken out of context, but, a few months into this job, he hadn’t been given any media training by the county board on how to deal and manage the press. It’s a minor detail, but these all add up over time; remember, it’s this perfect storm of shortcomings from the county board (mainly), management and players.
Let’s be honest, the damage of the strikes is still being felt in Cork GAA, it’s lurking in the darkest shadows where it can’t be seen but it’s still being felt – and that’s highlighted at county board meetings that continue to lack in real, honest and raw debate, in case your words and actions place you in one of two camps.
It was the same again last Tuesday night at the county board meeting, but in fairness to Nemo Rangers, they did raise the issue of a lack of availability of inter-county players to their clubs. More of this, please. More debate.
But the clubs need to be given the chance to talk, not cut off and silenced with promises that the executive will discuss matters and revert with their findings at the next board meeting on July 12th.
On these pages two weeks ago Cork County Board coaching officer Kevin O’Donovan – putting his head above the parapet – urged clubs to stand up and fight, for debate to return to the floor of county board meetings, for delegates to speak to their clubs about issues, and for democracy to rule. He’s right: clubs needs to take ownership of this and take control, not be silent stakeholders that nod their heads when asked.
It’s time delegates stood up and asked the questions that the county board don’t want to answer because, for too long, cracks are being papered over and problems are being kicked down the line. That’s the slippery slope that Cork GAA is on right now, unless there’s a huge change in the mentality of clubs who, seeing the diminishing chances of silverware at inter-county level, are now concentrating solely on themselves.
What makes last Sunday’s debacle harder to swallow is that the genuine reports from the camp were very positive, the mood was good and the players were happy with the ‘professional set-up’.
Then Cork gets hit with another Thurles train that could derail the entire season, if not managed properly.
In the article below this, Denis Hurley calls on the Cork management to implement a defensive structure to shore up a porous defence – but what the Rebels can’t conjure up between now and the All-Ireland qualifiers are real, genuine on-field leaders.
Cork lost more than just names when Graham Canty, Noel O’Leary, Pearse O’Neill, Paudie Kissane and players of that ilk retired in late 2013, they lost leaders of men who wrote their legacies in the trenches. Cork don’t have leaders of that breed now, and the young players in the squad – and the entire team, to be fair – are suffering as a result.
Some of those players were nudged out the door when Brian Cuthbert took over as manager in late 2013, the same county board appointment that – inadvertently or otherwise, you decide – led to the end of dual players at senior level for Cork, with Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane (both would be better off with the footballers) opting for hurling over football.
And all this from a county board that is seen to favour hurling over football; you can join the dots there and trace it back to its roots.
Are clubs happy for this to continue?
Kevin O’Donovan has taken a brave stand and he needs support from clubs to help breathe new life into board meetings and Cork GAA, otherwise there’s a good chance that this will all slip back into its normal pattern and this on-going Groundhog Day.