Could a summer without inter-county action follow our winter of discontent?
The story of a triumphalist Cork man who allegedly shouted out gleefully as Kerry supporters vacated Pairc Ui Chaoimh in their droves near the end of 1990 Munster final (2-23 to 1-11) ?lock the gates and make them suffer? is supposed to be true.
Many years ago Páidí Ó Sé said of the Cork supporters that they ?would stick a red flag up your jumper?. Or words to that effect.
After last September?s one-sided rout in Croke Park the Kerry full back Tom O?Sullivan was quoted as saying he hoped Cork wouldn?t win an All Ireland ?for another hundred years?.
Ambrose O?Donovan, Kerry?s centenary captain, always played a blinder against Cork because he knew what it was like in the border country before and after Munster finals. This was the one game above all others when you weren?t supposed to get beaten.
But it?s not all deadly poison because there is also a good side to the rivalry between Munster?s foremost rivals. To walk the streets of Cork proves that this is so. The atmosphere is brilliant and in their usual effusive style the locals go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Eamonn Young, one of Cork?s greatest ever footballers, picked up on the authentic accent after Cavan lost the 1945 All-Ireland final. ?What?s dat you say, sonny boy? Cavan the best team is it? Gwan away home outa dat wid yeh and don?t stir out until yeh ate yer supper?.
In the right environment Cork natives are the salt of the earth and you wouldn?t meet better or nicer people. In what other part of the world will you find a waitress (I?m thinking of the Uptown Grill in MacCurtain Street) who will ask with disarming innocence: ?Would like a bit of butter with your pandy??
These are the contradictions that fuel GAA rivalry throughout the four provinces but the bigger picture, i.e. the greater good of the games and the Association itself, must always remain paramount. That was why there was such widespread concern that the recent strike involving the Cork hurlers and footballers would see the famed red jerseys scrubbed off the canvas for the forthcoming All-Ireland championships. If that happened it would have been an absolute disaster for the GAA because a whole swathe of history would have been sabotaged in the process.
Now that the strike has been settled several people will be thanking their lucky stars. One of them is a certain county board official who was being thrust into the eye of the storm in a way that was neither fair nor objective. Let?s get real here. No one person was solely responsible for bringing Cork to the edge. The club delegates who voted in the proposed new method of appointing selectors ? not once but twice ? were responsible for that.
Obviously, the Cork players wouldn?t accept the democratic process and took retaliatory action as they saw fit. They went for broke and were prepared to suffer the consequences if needs be. These main protagonists were not in the business of appeasement. They weren?t bluffing. The resolution of the strike will show the worthiness of their cause because they got most of what they wanted. Teddy Holland (below) was ousted and the county board was forced into reverse gear. If that doesn?t spell victory nothing else can or will.
But this isn?t a time for identifying winners or losers. Truth is, all parties involved were damaged by the Cork strike. Worse than that, the threat of strike action will henceforth be seen as an effective weapon that can be applied elsewhere with equally productive results. That is a major worry for the parent body because the recent turmoil on Leeside has shown that players are now speaking with a stronger voice than ever before. By applying the right mix of militancy and brinkmnship they can get almost anything if they stick together for long enough.
Most noticeably, the Gaelic Players? Association maintained a diplomatic silence while the row in Cork was raging. This may have been a good tactical manoeuvre because the intervention of the GPA would have served no useful purpose and might even have inflamed the situation further. It will be remembered that this organisation had already issued their own threat of an all-out strike commencing on January 1 if the issue of government grant aid for the players had not been resolved.
In the meantime, a grouping calling itself ?Of One Belief? has indicated they will test the legality of Central Council?s action by going through the Disputes? Resolution Authority and if they succeed in their campaign to undermine the grants charter a two-thirds majority at Congress will be necessary to rubber stamp the earlier decision. That?s a potential time-bomb ticking away in the closet.
At a glance, one can clearly see that the stage has already been set for further conflict. Gaining a two-thirds majority at Congress might prove very difficult and what then? Presumably, in a doomesday scenario the GPA would activate their earlier decision and press the nuclear button. The chaos that would follow from such a high-octane move doesn?t bear thinking about. For starters, the entire championship programme for 2008 could be wiped out.
Obviously, the people behind this latest move to scupper the grants have an anti-player agenda at the heart of their campaign. Basically, they begrudge the players the miserable pittance they are entitled to from government funds. This mean-spirited approach is loaded with all kinds of dangerous potential but these self-appointed guardians of morality (Rule 11 and all that) should keep one fundamental truth firmly in mind. They may win the battle at Congress but they won?t win the war that is likely to follow.
The outcome of the Cork strike proves that conclusively. The players are by far the most important people in the GAA and without them there is nothing.
Blast From the Past
The Kerry team that lost the 1958 All-Ireland semi-final to Derry on a score of 2-6 to 2-5 was: Donal (Marcus) O?Neill; Jerome O?Shea, Ned Roche, Jack Dowling; Sean Murphy, Tom Moriarty, Mick
O?Dwyer; John Dowling, Seamus Murphy; Mick O?Connell, Tom Long, Tadhgie Lyne, Garry MacMahon, Mick Murphy, Paudie Sheehy. Subs: Moss O?Connell for T Moriarty; Niall Sheehy for Jack Dowling.