LAST WORD COLUMN: Time for clubs to take ownership of Cork GAA

July 17th, 2016 6:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Taking a stand: Cork GAA Coaching Officer Kevin O'Donovan.

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BRAVO Kevin O’Donovan, bravo.

The county coaching officer threw a stone in the water on Tuesday night and the ripples have flown ever since, washing up in every corner of this frustrated county, in GAA terms.

Time will tell whether O’Donovan’s 16-page draft discussion document, including 25 proposals aimed at rescuing Cork GAA from its current quagmire, will lead to actual change, or get bogged down in politics, but at least someone has taken actual steps to address the county’s current woes on and off the field.

For taking a stand, O’Donovan deserves credit. 

He has started a debate, but what’s both worrying and unsurprising is that it has taken one man to get the ball rolling.

He caught the county board executive unaware at the board meeting when he distributed his discussion document to club delegates as they exited the meeting. He had the element of surprise, the top table weren’t expecting this, and no doubt, privately, they will have been seething.

Chatting to Pat Mulcahy on Cork’s hurling woes he stressed that ‘strong leadership at executive board level’ is what is now needed.

On Sunday evening, by email, I contacted county board chairman Ger Lane to request a couple of minutes of his time to address the hurlers’ loss to Wexford, the growing sense of frustration in the county and what actions can be done to turn this ship around.

His reply was swift, and to the point. He didn’t want to contribute, and whatever he had to say would be said at executive/county committee level first.

Quite frankly, considering where Cork GAA stands right now, that’s not good enough. 

Tuesday night’s meeting came and went, and, in my eyes, the county board hid behind the normal procedure that saw all standing orders suspended following tributes to the late Jim Forbes.

Yes, that’s normal procedure, but these are not normal times for Cork GAA, far from it.

The hurling crisis should have been discussed at the meeting, not deferred to the next meeting on August 18th, which will be five weeks after the Cork senior hurlers were dumped out of the championship.

Out of sight, out of mind, it seems. 

Again, being frank, it’s not good enough by those charged with overseeing and running GAA in the county.

They have a responsibility to the clubs, their members and supporters to address this problem openly and honestly, and to exhaust all avenues in finding solutions so that Cork GAA can plan for the future.

Instead, one man, Kevin O’Donovan, who has been vocal at the recent board meetings, has had to go on a solo run. 

The county board are an easy target in the current climate, and while they can’t be blamed for everything, a lot of trails lead back to their door.

Too many figures have held too many positions for far too long, and they have cast a shadow over the county and divided it in two – those in support of the board and those, quite frankly, who aren’t.

For example, how can Cork GAA move forward and put the strikes of the last decade behind it when figures involved in that dispute are still serving? It’s impossible.

And it won’t happen, not with all the will in the world; not with certain figures still involved.

Personal grudges are holding this county back, as is the fear of retribution for standing up to the powers-that-be, not to mention the well-documented and obvious problems like poor standards in the county championships, etc.

But until the clubs stand up and be strong, this will continue to drift along, as the winters pass by and the famines grow longer.

Natural evolution will see the make-up of the county board change, but how long will take? And is the Cork GAA public prepared to wait for change rather than instigate it?

A problem that exists is that clubs are only interested in their own welfare and not that of the county. They’re looking after number one – and you can see the merit in that too – but it will be to every club’s detriment if the current Cork GAA slide isn’t halted.

Clubs need to make their voices heard, they need to be more vocal at board meetings, they need to be willing to stand up to the board and fight for their club and county. 

They also need to digest and evaluate O’Donovan’s discussion document, debate it and report back with their own ideas. Clubs need to take back ownership of their GAA scene.

‘Yes men’ will only hold Cork GAA back. And, again being frank, there are too many ‘yes men’. 

Young people with fresh voices and new ideas, like Kevin O’Donovan, need to get involved, but the majority are turned off by the politics that has stifled this county. It’s gone stale.

No doubt when the redeveloped and sparkling Páirc Uí Chaoimh opens its doors next year, it will look the part, but the longer the county’s GAA problems meander along and the longer the board takes to address them, the stadium will be a reminder of a time when Cork was cut loose from the leading pack.

It will be a monument to mediocrity, unless change happens.

Frankly, I’m waiting to be convinced it will happen. 

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