Awards snub takes shine off rebels' year of glory
IT'S just as well for Conor Counihan that he has such a mild-mannered disposition. Otherwise, he would find it necessary to drop in on Dr Con Murphy quite regularly to top up on blood pressure tablets.
The condition would not have been triggered by the stresses of managing Cork footballers but rather by the aftermath of an outstanding season, their best for 20 years. For some strange reason, Cork have not been getting the credit enjoyed by previous All-Ireland winners. In fact, they have been treated very badly.
Cork have the All-Ireland and league (Division 1) titles safely tucked away; they suffered just three defeats from 16 competitive games, one of which (v Mayo in the league series) occurred after they had already qualified for the final, which meant they weren't as driven as usual.
Mayo were driven because they needed to win to reach the final, where Cork resumed full-power service with a thumping win. Cork had earlier lost narrowly to Tyrone in a league game and later fell to Kerry by a single point after extra-time in the Munster semi-final replay.
Otherwise, it was success all the way, admittedly sometimes in circumstances where Cork looked as if they were wading through treacle. Still, they made it every time while leaving the impression of a team that had a whole lot more to give.
At this level, a season is defined by the state of the trophy cabinet at the end of play and, in that regard, nobody can legitimately question Cork's No 1 status heading into 2011.
Strangely though, Cork have remained unloved on the awards circuit. The All Stars selectors ignored the claims of every Cork forward while choosing no fewer than three Down attackers. Never before in the 40-year history of the All Stars had the All-Ireland champions failed to have a forward selected.
Daniel Goulding was the leading Cork candidate but didn't make it, despite having an excellent season, culminating in a superb exhibition of nerveless kicking in the All-Ireland final. He was later chosen on the GPA Team of the Year but Cork's delight at his inclusion was more than tempered by the low representation elsewhere as Michael Shields and Paudie Kissane were the only others on the players' selection.
Meanwhile, Down, who had been in Division 2 and who lost to Tyrone and Cork in the championship, got five players on the GPA team, one more than on the All Stars where they -- and Cork -- had four each.
Having fared badly with the All Stars and GPA teams, it would have come as no surprise to Cork that the Footballer of the Year award eluded them too. Instead, it went to Dublin's Bernard Brogan. There's no obvious reason why it should automatically come from the All-Ireland winners but, with a few exceptions, that has tended to be the case.
With the players' awards completed, attention turned to the Manager of the Year award and, once again, Cork lost out. Counihan's success in finally steering Cork footballers across the All-Ireland line in his third season was similar to Liam Sheedy's achievement with Tipperary hurlers, but Counihan had a stronger case as the Rebels completed the league-championship double.
However, the managers' award went to Sheedy, whose claim was presumably bolstered by Tipperary's achievement in wrecking Kilkenny's five-in-a-row dreams.
Curiously, Brian Cody didn't get the award when Kilkenny achieved the four-in-a-row a year earlier -- or indeed when they completed the double and treble in 2007/08 -- yet Sheedy won it this season for helping Tipperary to stop the 'drive for five'.
It was good to see the award go to GAA and to a popular man like Sheedy but in purely clinical terms where results count for everything, Counihan, an equally personable sort who always conducts himself well, had a better year with Cork.
Given the manner in which they lost out everywhere, Cork wouldn't have been surprised to have nobody in the running for the individual awards in the RTE Sports Person of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced on tonight's review programme (RTE1, 9.35). They were right.
In fact, Gaelic football won't be represented at all, which seems extremely odd. It's the bigger wing of our national games so surely it should have a contender every year.
Hurling is represented by Lar Corbett, who swept all the Hurler of the Year awards.
So then, here's the round-up of Cork's interaction with the awards circuit: no All-Star forward, fewer players than the All-Ireland runners-up on the GPA team; ignored for Footballer of the Year and Manager of the Year; no candidate for RTE Sports Person of the year.
Mild-mannered or not, Counihan might just mention that when Cork return to the training fields early next month.
Another dimension to training ban debate
A reader has posed the following question, which adds a dimension to the November-December ban on inter-county training.
"If a squad, of its own volition, decided to get together regularly to play football/hurling in November-December, what would happen? Would the GAA punish members for playing their own sport? And if so, would that constitute a world record for bizarre behaviour?"
Put like that, it really does highlight the danger of applying a ban of any sort. The GAA, of all organisations, should know that.