With the panel currently refusing to play for manager, Gerald McCarthy who has just been appointed for another two years, this latest dispute to rock Cork GAA needs some perspective.
Many players at the heart of the stand-off were on the picket lines several years ago when they clashed with the County Board and won. Then more recently, the Cork footballers took a dislike to the way manager, Teddy Holland, had been appointed, and again they won the day when Conor Counihan eventually took over.
Such militancy among players is pretty rare in the GAA, but this generation hasn’t just proved to be tough at the negotiating table, as the hurlers also did their talking on the pitch by appearing in four All Ireland finals in a row, and winning two, after seeing off the County Board.
But as with the Holland row, and now with McCarthy, the trouble is really less to do with a clash between the players and their coaches, but more a deep-seated animosity towards the Board and its highly influential secretary, Frank Murphy.
While the players have been adamant that they don’t want to play for McCarthy, with Ben O’Connor stating that the panel was “ready to go the whole distance and pull out”, McCarthy understandably feels let down as he has done no wrong.
He issued a statement expressing his hurt at the manner of his rejection, but on the face of it, he seems to be just as entrenched as his players. “There is a predisposition to conflict among a very small number of Cork players,” he said, before adding: “If some players feel they cannot play for me, so be it, let them walk away.”
Of course it’s true that the players feel it’s time McCarthy was replaced, but they are digging their heels in more because the County Board approved McCarthy’s reappointment when it was aware of the players’ mindset.
Writing in the Irish Times, one of the county’s former hurling managers, John Allen, took the board to task: “Now the players and Gerald McCarthy are being portrayed as villains of the piece. They’re not the villains. They’re the victims. The real perpetrators of this latest crisis are the board, which again, is operating from an authoritarian, immature position.”
Allen went on to defend Sean Og O hAilpin, Donal Og Cusack and John Gardiner, three senior players who are probably among the group McCarthy referred to as having a predisposition to conflict. “They are people of the highest caliber. They are willing to put their careers on the line again for the betterment of the future generations of Cork hurlers. They don’t want to pick the manager, but they do want to have all the available, interested, best-qualified candidates allowed to pitch for the position before a committee which has the betterment of Cork hurling at heart.”
Another former Cork manager, Donal O’Grady who guided the county to All Ireland success in 2004, said he thought the players were still being excluded from key decisions. “Cork as a county is a sort of family and it should be made up of the county board, the manager and the players, all existing as the one organization. If you look at the way the board has spoken, it’s like the manager is there but the players are outside the loop and that shouldn’t happen.”
When this drawn-out dispute will end is uncertain, but what is certain, is that there will be a casualty. Either McCarthy himself, or the players’ credibility.
Meanwhile, there is also strife in Donegal football following the appointment of John Joe Doherty as county manager. The coaching ticket of Declan Bonner and Charlie Mulgrew had been proposed at last month’s County Board meeting, however, Doherty was ratified early in the week by 27 votes to 19.
Bonner was present when the decision was taken, and in his capacity as a club delegate he called for a vote of no confidence in the board’s main officers. That call was ruled out of order, however, Bonner and Mulgrew are now likely to seek a hearing with the GAA’s Disputes Resolution Authority.
On the club hurling front, Joe Canning was once more to the fore as Portumna won their fourth Galway title in six years with a 1-18 to 2-7 victory over Gort at Pearse Stadium. Canning hit a total of 0-10 including six frees and one sideline cut while Andy Smith rowed in with a second half goal.
The Dublin title was retained by Ballyboden St Enda’s after their convincing 0-17 to 0-7 win over Kilmacud Crokes at Parnell Park. Eight points without reply at the start of the second half proved decisive as Shane Durkin and David Curtin scored 0-5 apiece.
The holders in Wexford weren’t so fortunate as Oulart-the-Ballagh, with Liam Dunne playing his final game at the age of 40, were knocked off their perch by St Martin’s. It finished 1-13 to 1-8 at Wexford Park as the underdogs won their first title since 1999.
Leinster took the interprovincial title with a 1-15 to 1-12 win over Munster in Portlaoise, while Munster defeated Connacht by 1-9 to 0-7 in the football decider. In the one football county final, Kilanerin, with Matty Forde scoring 10 points, secured the Wexford title with a 1-12 to 0-12 success against Gusserane.