UNTANGLING the Páirc Uí Rinn or nowhere saga is like tackling those Christmas lights that you squashed into their box in a hurry the year before: it’s messy and not as straightforward as you hoped it would be.
There are so many moving parts in all of this. Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s debt that will cast a shadow over Cork GAA until it’s paid off. Ed Sheeran’s two concerts at the end of the month, which will take a bite-sized chunk out of that debt. The Cork County Board that hoped/prayed when it gave the green light to Ed’s return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh that there would be no championship clashes (turns out, there were). The Munster Council that switched the game from Páirc Uí Rinn to Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney to allow more (paying) fans to attend and watch. And then there are the Cork and Kerry footballers, both who want to play a game of football on May 7th – but we don’t know yet where this Munster SFC semi-final will be staged.
Initially, it was Páirc Uí Rinn. Then the Munster Council switched it to Killarney. And then the Cork footballers, often maligned and often a second thought, stood up and said: it’s Páirc Uí Rinn or nowhere.
Opinions are divided on this – but why should the current Cork football team be punished for decisions made by others? Brian Hurley didn’t book Ed Sheeran into Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Ian Maguire didn’t saddle Cork GAA with a huge Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment debt. John O’Rourke didn’t make the decision to move the game to Killarney. This saga was not of the Cork footballers’ making – so why should they give up home advantage for a game where very few will give them a chance of causing a shock?
Lost, almost, in all of this is the football match that will be played on May 7th. Forget the night out in Killarney. Or the pints in the city. Or fighting for car parking outside Páirc Uí Rinn. This is about a football match that the Cork footballers want to win, and that’s why they want to hold on to home advantage this year. It increases their odds, however slightly, against a Kerry team that’s in a different league right now.
Home advantage is called that for a reason – it’s meant to favour the home side. Pack out Páirc Uí Rinn (hopefully) on May 7th, with 11,000 fans, create a proper occasion, a championship match with an edge, and see what happens. Recent events might also lure some more football fans off their armchairs and away from social media to Páirc Uí Rinn to support a new team under a new management that is fighting to find its identity.
This is the Cork footballers’ battle cry. They are standing up for themselves. This year’s Munster championship semi-final is meant to be played in Cork, off the back of the home and away arrangement, and that’s what the Rebels are demanding is honoured. And they’re right to do so.
This mess wasn’t their doing. They are standing their ground. It’s Páirc Uí Rinn or nowhere – and hopefully common sense will prevail and all cars, from both Cork and Kerry, will point to the city on May 7th.