News Colm O'Rourke

Saturday 30 August 2014

Rebel cause and effect: one more strike and you're out

Published 16/12/2007 | 00:00

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t HE film Rebel Without A Cause, starring James Dean, was one of the most memorable big screen productions of the 1950s. Today, over a half a century later, we have an opportunity to remake the Hollywood blockbuster in Cork. It could be called Rebel With A Cause, with a Deane again in the lead role -- this time Cork hurler Joe Deane!

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The specific cause in this case is the method of appointing the new senior football team manager, but the real battle is again about where the power lies.

Any logical analysis of how to appoint the most important football person in Cork would never come up with a mass meeting to make the decision. In fairness, what would most club delegates know about the demands of inter-county management? Little or nothing is the answer, yet this is the process used in Cork.

Of course, in all decisions in Cork there is the reason and the real reason. If Cork wanted to shaft Billy Morgan -- and they were quite entitled to move on to someone else -- the methods employed were crude in the extreme and there was no follow-up plan. If there was, then a small committee of three to five people would have been set up to find a new man, that coming after a little more courtesy to Morgan.

That committee should have been heavily weighted in favour of former players of recent vintage, ones who have seen the developments that have taken place over the last number of years.

And all parties interested in the job should have had to come forward with their full management team -- selectors, trainers, physio, doctor, dietitians etc, with a costing as to what it would set the board back. Then and only then could a rational decision be made.

Now the other reality in Cork is that most people don't care much anyway about their county football team. So getting the hurlers to stand alongside the footballers was vital as the general public would probably say 'so what' if the footballers alone decided on a withdrawal of service. The last time the hurlers put the stick in, they went on to win two All-Irelands; the footballers will hope that lightning strikes twice.

Yet, even with an acceptable compromise, that is unlikely -- as it is more than a management change which is needed. The whole philosophy of football needs a complete overhaul. If that was being sorted out, it would not be too hard to get the players onside.

Yet the players here have to be careful too. You can't keep crying wolf. There are times when players have to put up and shut up with things they don't like, and in this case they may have to run with something they regard as less than ideal, with the proviso that major decisions are never conducted like this again. That would at least be progress.

On a wider front, the Cork County Board's stand is just a reflection again of the vast gulf that exists between most players and their own county boards. It is hardly a coincidence that places like Kerry and Kilkenny seem to get the mix right between treating players with respect and ensuring there is a clear delineation of power.

Few people apart from those close to top county players understand the sacrifices associated with playing at the top. It is much, much more difficult than being a professional -- as at least they have the rest and recuperation time that amateurs must instead give to work. So a footballer has a lifestyle choice and it is all duck or no dinner with him. There is no half-way house.

During the season, a serious player builds his life selfishly around the games. Eat, sleep, train, prepare. For that, they will now get the sort of grant that most young lads would pick up in presents for their First Communion. Pay for play? Wise up, lads.

Of course it is a choice, something they all enjoy doing, but if the demands became so overbearing that top players were walking away because they were not able to give the time, then the opposite outcry would occur: something would have to be done to ensure that the stars were there to entertain on any given Sunday. Another circle to square.

With this in mind, I was amazed at the comments of Tyrone chairman Pat Darcy about the GPA. They were very intolerant, yet they probably reflect similar views of many boards around the country. I wonder do these insensitive comments include great Tyrone men like Seán Cavanagh and Peter Canavan, or is it just players outside his county who incur his wrath?

Whatever way it is supposed to be, it is not healthy for the GAA. Perhaps Dessie Farrell's comments about rumps and malcontents was a little harsh, but there is an element creeping into the GAA where only the decisions that suit are accepted, everything else can be questioned or ignored.

It is a new type of democracy which does not suit a broad church like the GAA. Naturally, you could argue that the same democracy should apply in Cork. The players should accept whatever the county board throws at them and get on with it. And if that means being humiliated by Kerry most years, then so be it. That can hardly be acceptable either.

Before Seán Boylan came on the scene in Meath, county team affairs were not handled very efficiently, for a variety of reasons. Those were the wasted years of my career, almost a decade, and many outstanding players lost out because they were gone before the good times rolled. We should all have had the courage of our convictions then and set out to improve things earlier.

So if Cork players are thinking their careers are going down the Lee and want to do something about it, then more power to them.

However, if the revolution succeeds there can be no wolf anymore, no more threats, no more withdrawal of service. The Rebels will have only one cause then -- winning Sam.

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