Cork punishment beatings create another fine mess
Published 24/02/2008 | 00:00
T he fire brigade can now return to the station in Cork after washing all the blood off the walls. In the peace that prevails, it is the wounds that can't be seen that will take the longest to heal, although I suspect the warring factions will be very careful in their internal dealings for the foreseeable future.
After the war, though, has come chaos on the football League front. The awarding of points to Meath and Dublin has made a proper mess of it and there are repercussions all round. The counties that have cried foul have more than a case -- they are immediately at a distinct disadvantage through no fault of their own.
If one or more of the other counties are sent packing to division three by virtue of Cork beating them, while Meath or Dublin survive on the basis of getting the points without playing, then the ballyhoo will be even greater.
At the moment, most counties are like the gurrier in the shadows, they are waiting for the opportune time to strike -- not literally of course.
At least a clear-cut outcome on the basis of points won or lost may reduce the level of anguish, but the waters become completely muddied if some counties end up on the same points.
Up to now, points difference was used to designate position in the group. In itself, this is a stupid system and hopefully will be changed this year to a system where the result between the counties is the first port of call in deciding placings. Anyway, no system will work now as giving the points to Dublin and Meath has made a complete dog's dinner of the whole group. If teams finish level at the end now, either for promotion or relegation, then there will have to be play-offs as there are no scores from two games.
The manure will well and truly hit the fan if that happens -- particularly if Cork are involved. So in giving the points to Meath and Dublin, the politburo in Croke Park have only given hostages to fortune.
As far as I am concerned, Cork should have been given the chance to play the games on the basis of fairness to all. The only penalty being that they had to travel to Dublin. What should have been done is to fix Cork to play Meath in Navan on a Friday night and Dublin in Parnell Park on Sunday or vice versa.
I am sure Conor Counihan would have been delighted with such an opportunity to take the troops away from the battlefront for a long weekend. It would have cleared their heads and the new manager would have had a chance to get to know his men. And it would hardly have been too much to ask of Meath and Dublin either.
Of course there are scheduling issues, but the points gained in the boardroom are of no real benefit. The counties involved can argue with total justification that it is not their problem. Meath, for example, are now left with four away games and only two at home, but most counties live in glasshouses so it advisable to keep away from a stone throwing contest.
At this stage, Cork are probably afraid to appeal as they feel they would get no sympathy. I think they should appeal and come up with some sort of accommodation that everyone could live with. Most people in the GAA may initially think it is good enough for them but, ultimately, decency and fairness is what the ordinary supporter wants. Naturally, past history would suggest Cork are being treated differently and setting a precedent is the fear, but a precedent of fairness hurts nobody.
The bigger picture for the Leagues which has drawn little comment is the fact that the finals are not being played in Croke Park. The reason given -- pitch maintenance -- is entirely valid, but again many players and supporters, especially from weaker counties, will be unhappy come April when they can only get into Croke Park as tourists.
By then, there will be discontent about soccer, rugby and concerts while those from Divisions three and four, who don't normally get to the theatre of fantasies, are out in the sticks.
In fact, the most important thing of all is to have the Division three and four finals in Croke Park. These players probably won't get to play a Championship match in high summer down by the canal, so the League is the opportunity of a lifetime. It
should be written in stone that all four divisions have their finals in Croke Park.
There should be a finals weekend on the first weekend of May each year -- the division one and three finals on Saturday night and divisions two and four on Sunday afternoon. This should be promoted on a massive scale with weekend packages in Dublin and all the kids in the counties involved let in free.
If every player wants at least one day in Croke Park, it is no different for county board officials and supporters, not to mention team managers. It won't be lost on the last group that while they wait patiently for a day out patrolling the line in the palace, they will see Signor Trapattoni beat them to it. Good luck to the old fox of Milan but he should not be getting the bainisteoir's bib in front of our own.
And while I have the big spoon out, the first game of the League should have been Meath and Dublin in Croke Park. There would have been no need for rent-a-crowd there.
Tommy Conlon is on leave