I have supported Rebel players but enough is enough
Kieran Mulvey, who must wonder how he got himself tied up in this mess, suggested last week that the Cork dispute should be about principles and not personalities.
To my mind nearly all disputes in Cork are personality driven. This was quickly let out of the bag when Seán óg ó hAlpín sent a scud missile in the direction of Frank Murphy in that very honest interview in the Irish Times. Bad timing perhaps, but he was brave enough to speak what everybody knew was the truth.
The full-time secretary, despite his low profile at the moment, is the man the players feel has his hand marks all over this change in the manner of choosing the management team at county level. Respected as an administrator he is quite unpopular with players who have always felt he operated from a different agenda to them. Those same players won't back down when they sense his guiding hand in the background.
In a wider sense for the GAA, it highlights the danger of too much power in the hands of full-time officials, most of whom it must be stated do a first class job and give more time and commitment than should be reasonably be expected. What it also shows is that officials should have review clauses in contracts of employment, maybe a seven-year maximum before the review falls due. It does not matter in life what job a person has, but being there indefinitely is just not healthy.
If the Cork County Board thought they were going to win the PR battle by releasing the contents of negotiations last week then they need to sack their advisers. If they were so smart in moving their position then why did they not do so a few months ago when requested by the players? At that time there were all types of red and pink herrings being thrown in about disruption of club fixtures and the need to control the football management.
All that of course was just the background to getting rid of Billy Morgan. It was a cowardly way of doing it. Nobody at county board level had the guts to tell him he was not wanted anymore.
What is happening in Cork is just the extreme version of player-county board conflict which happens in every county. Most county players have a distrust of their county board. In many cases it is irrational, but is based on the fact that county boards have few people with recent experience of being involved with a county team. They don't, therefore, have much idea or understanding of what makes a county team tick. Worse still, they are afraid or reluctant to involve those same players in any type of decision-making. To appoint a county team manager without some players of recent vintage involved in the selection process is the ultimate in a power trip for a county board. What it means in practice is that they are appointing someone to the most powerful position when they don't have much idea of what they should even be looking for.
Teddy Holland holds the solution to the whole problem. If he stepped aside everything could be ironed out quickly, even if the bitterness will last. However, Holland seems unable to accept what many see as being in the interest of the common good. The same is true of the selectors and I am particularly surprised at Teddy McCarthy who should know enough about the county scene to see that while he did not cause the problem, he is now a part of it.
Of course, these men can hide behind the veneer of democracy, they were elected and so on. It is pitiful to see men of substance hide behind such a laughable form of democracy. The golden rule of management is that once the players don't want you then it is time to get on your bike.
As for democracy Cork style, forgive me for being a bit cynical as to its workings. When the debate about opening up Croke Park was going on the Cork County Board opposed it without getting a vote from every single member of every club. This flew in the face of the vast majority of people in the country. No other city and county has such a tradition of quality sport. Not only that but it is an extremely tolerant sporting scene, so the Cork board ran with a policy which is absolutely inconsistent with life on the ground. A lot of those board officers like the idea of the Rebel County as the true Republican heartland -- what they should do is get real and try to escape from their time warp.
If a critic wanted to look at Cork's recent history in football they would find plenty of reason for player disenchantment. With a huge playing population, Cork have only won a few All-Irelands in 50 years. Whose fault is that? Is it the players, bad management or a board where the preference for hurling has always left football a second class citizen.
They operate out of Páirc Uí Caoimh which is falling down around them, that decay mirroring the interest in football.
So this dispute has been coming for a long time and there is a great need now for a whole new approach. That can't happen with many of the board personnel who are clinging like a drowning man to what ever they can possibly hold on to.
For the last few weeks I have very clearly backed the players. They need to know that if they are going to put in such huge effort they are not wasting their time with the pettiness which has been the hallmark of the Cork County Board for as long as I can remember.
It may appear strange then for me to say at this point that I feel the players should go back. It would not be a climbdown, but a very honourable course of action in the context of all the genuine supporters, especially young players, who don't wish to see Cork without county teams this year. You don't have to listen to management anyway and the players should bring in someone themselves who they can trust. The players have won the war, now they should not mess up their own future.