Taking strike action is not something players do lightly, but the current deadlock between the footballers and the hurlers and the Cork county board is not something that can be resolved overnight.
Brought in as a mediator between the two factions, Labour Relations chairman, Kieran Mulvey, gave it his best shot last weekend during 18 hours of talks, but to no avail. Mulvey remains available to the parties, yet after months of wrangling, the stand-off might even have intensified.
The dispute has its roots in a decision by the Cork county board to nominate selectors following the appointment of a manager. Much better, and much more logical, say the players, for a manager to choose his own selectors rather than run the risk of having outsiders imposed on his ticket.
So, it wasn’t the actual appointment of Teddy Holland at the back end of last year as the county’s new football manager that got the players’ backs up, it was more that his selectors were named at the same time by the county board.
“They should never have named a football manager,” said the county’s All Ireland hurling winning captain, Sean Og O hAilpin in hard-hitting interview in the Irish Times newspaper. “They went ahead and named a manager and selectors. Nobody disputes Teddy Holland’s credentials as a football man. Because of the system, though, and the timing, he is the wrong man. I know six Cork greats turned it [the football manager’s job] down, just stayed away because the players had asked them to.
“If you put Cork teams out under this system where a manager can’t pick his own people to work with, you won’t get the best managers, or the best support team. No decent manager will give his life over to working with people not of his choosing, knowing that he can’t succeed.”
If a highly-respected player such as O hAilpin reflects the players’ position, then there is absolutely no chance as of now of the footballers playing for Holland. “To be honest, Teddy Holland will have to go,” added O hAilpin. “The county board didn’t respect the players’ wishes. Naming Teddy broke all trust.”
The former dual star also suggested that even if this dispute was settled, further problems would arise in the future while Frank Murphy remained as secretary of the county board. “I’m not telling Frank to step aside, but I’m saying it would help,” said O hAilpin.
It seemed at one stage during last weekend’s talks that an agreement might be reached, however, as Mulvey attempted to put a new deal in place, the players upped the ante by demanding that Holland should stand aside, and that they be represented on the county board’s executive. Not surprisingly, the county board balked at their demands.
Below the waterline here, it’s likely that a few scores are being settled following a previous bitter dispute in 2002 when the Cork players went head-to-head with Murphy and the county board and won.
The footballers will not necessarily be thrown out of the league if they fail to fulfil their fixture against Meath at the weekend – a postponement is the more probable scenario. However, like the hurlers who are due to start their campaign against All Ireland champions, Kilkenny, on Sunday week, their participation in the competition remains shrouded in doubt.