Colm O'Rourke

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Cork board must go if people's revolution is to succeed

Published 15/03/2009 | 00:00

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The end, as always, was swift and brutal. There is no easy way. But Gerald McCarthy was never going to go quietly into the night and he raged against the 'heroes' who stood steadfast against him.

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All in all, you would have to say this has been a particularly sordid episode in Cork GAA history -- complete with allegations of sinister threats -- where Gerald McCarthy was one of the victims.

He set himself up as the keeper of the flame of amateurism and he railed against those who he identified as not representing the integrity of Cork hurling, while at the same time saying he would welcome the players back. It was always a dangerous route to travel. It tainted the character of players who at least on the surface did not deserve such a slur. Once clubs became mobilised, there was one inevitable outcome: the guillotine.

When McCarthy looks back on those who let him down, he can look close to home, at the county board. It was the board who hung him out to dry for their own petty ends. The position of many of the executive in the light of all that has happened is entirely untenable. You can't expect to keep backing the wrong horse without eventually going broke. Few in Cork will have much if any confidence now in their own executive. Those who resign with dignity will emerge with the greatest respect and may return in the future with a better appreciation of the importance of not riding roughshod over people, just because you can.

So this is not the end, not even the beginning of the end, just the end of the beginning, to borrow an old Churchillian maxim. What has happened is that clubs are beginning to reclaim an organisation they had lost. This has been an exercise in people power not player power. The most repulsive regimes in history crumbled under the weight of ordinary people. In Cork, no decision the executive made could stick in the face of such popular unrest.

Now that the plain people of Cork have found their conscience, they should not stop. Never again should such a fine sporting county be left at the whim of an executive on such decisions as the opening of Croke Park. For Cork to vote against allowing soccer and rugby in, without allowing clubs have a say, was a complete contradiction of the daily life of Cork sports enthusiasts.

Those at the top who treated club members like dirt should be removed. The frustrations of the past have now exploded and this revolution -- and that is what it is -- as clubs rebelled against their own executive is a bit like starting a big boulder rolling down a hill, you don't know where it will end up or the damage it may do on the way. On almost all important matters recently, in relation to their own county teams and national issues, the Cork board have been caught offside. As individuals they may carry out their duties with the greatest integrity, but as a group they have again been shown to be absolutely unrepresentative of those they were chosen to represent.

For some of these at least they feel that they are a bit like De Valera, who looked into his own heart to know what was best for the Irish people. Some in Cork seem to think they know how to vote on major issues even if the majority think the exact opposite. Their votes on Gerald McCarthy are just another indicator of this.

Inevitably, the focus of attention is now directed at Frank Murphy. It does not matter about his knowledge of the rule book, his efficiency or anything else. What he is identified with in Cork, whether right or wrong, is pushing an agenda which has resulted in three strikes -- in layman's language three strikes and you are out. At the very best this demonstrates the danger of full-time officials occupying positions for long periods -- it is not a healthy thing in any organisation.

To regain lost ground, a new system is needed involving former players and managers as the Mulvey document is dead in the water. Now that that they have won a minor skirmish, clubs should not lose sight of the bigger picture and that is the decision on how they want their county board to properly represent their interests going forward.

A great responsibility now rests on the players' shoulders. Any talk that they must win the All-Ireland this year to justify taking such a hardline stand is rubbish. Players should always be an integral part of the decision-making process, as partners in the process, not as some afterthought. The very structure of the GAA exists to allow games to take place; it is not a power trip for officials.

Of course, players who are privileged to have the talent to play at county level have big responsibilities too. The honour of wearing a county jersey is huge; it is a symbol of much of what is good about being Irish. It represents the hard work of thousands of voluntary workers who love the feeling of contributing something to their community. That is more important than money, power or ego.

On that basis, a lot of people will take convincing that this team are anything other than an arrogant, self-indulgent group who think only of themselves and don't have the future interest of Cork hurling at heart. The only answer to that is to behave with dignity and respect off the field and heart and passion on it. Many might say that Kilkenny have passed them by and it is arguable that the glory days are gone, no matter who is in charge. And what about those who tried their hardest since the walk-out? They deserve some recognition for their efforts.

The players, I'm sure, will be easy to deal with now. Not that they will feel they have anything to apologise for, but a new man might deem some of those who have led the fight to be surplus to requirements. Those who lose out would probably say the sacrifice was worthwhile. All change depends on men of courage, even if they don't reap any personal benefit from it.

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