Cork can go to hell
THE adage that if you have difficulty repaying a €5,000 bank loan, it's your problem, but if you default on a €5m debt it becomes theirs has a deep resonance in the Cork row.
If a club team went on strike because the manager wasn't allowed to choose his selectors, it would attract local interest only and then only for as long as it took to eject them from competition.
And what if Carlow, Leitrim or Longford were involved in a similar row for three months? Would it have exercised the GAA authorities to the same degree as the Cork rebellion? Probably not.
But then the authorities can level the exact same charge at the media who have given massive coverage to a saga that has so many complexities and sub-plots as to make it utterly unfathomable.
Kieran Mulvey, a man with a proven track record in skilfully manoeuvring settlements of the most intractable industrial disputes, has made two attempts to solve the puzzle, only to find that the word 'negotiation' has an altogether different meaning to the norm when it comes to Cork GAA.
It's understood that Mulvey would try again if both parties were prepared to work off the standard meaning. He deserves great credit for his patience because what's happening in Cork has entered a surreal world of stubbornness, ego, point-scoring and negativity.
It's understandable that Croke Park want to make every effort to solve the crisis since Cork's absence from the Leagues (and possibly even the Championship) would lessen both competitions. Besides, nobody wants to see any county -- let alone such a big and successful one as Cork -- locked in a strike.
However, there's a limit to how much patience can be shown over a dispute that had its origins in a relatively minor issue. Why was it so important to the Cork County Board that they, rather than team managers, should choose the selectors? It's the norm in other counties, so what's so different in Cork?
However, once it became an issue, why did the players reach for the nuclear button by calling a strike so soon? Surely, there were other avenues that could have been explored before the hurlers waded into the fray.
And also, while on that point, do the footballers, who were first to be effected by the change of policy, realise that they were made to look like complete wimps once the hurlers came aboard?
The hurlers have been dominating the propaganda campaign and while, presumably, that was the agreed strategy, the footballers should realise that, having been humiliated by Kerry in last year's All-Ireland final, it doesn't do much for their image as men of substance to be seen peeping out from behind the hurlers' coat tails over the past number of months.
Unquestionably, the players have a legitimate grievance with a Board which clearly learned nothing from the strike of 2002. It's astonishing that the Board didn't anticipate that the change of policy over the how selectors were chosen would precipitate a row.
And even when it became apparent that the players were ready for war, the Board voted a second time to enforce the change, while also going ahead with the appointment of Teddy Holland as football team manager. Provocative or what?
The irony is that having taken on the players so aggressively a few months ago, the Board were prepared this week to rescind last autumn's decision and allow the manager to choose his own selectors in future years. Not only that, but they would also allow the squad to have two members on the committee charged with appointing team managers. The players were also to be represented on the County Board.
It was an astonishing U-turn by the County Board, giving players more power and influence than in any other county which shows just how idiotic their original stand on appointing selectors really was.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, the truth is that the rest of the country has run out of patience. Meath footballers were the first to be affected as their clash with Cork was called-off last weekend, while Kilkenny hurlers will be left idle tomorrow.
And if Cork fail to fulfil any League fixture, several other counties will be effected, not just this year but also in 2009 as the various Divisions will be distorted by Cork's inevitable relegation.
Meath have stated that even if the Cork strike is resolved, they won't fulfil the fixture on March 9 as suggested by the GAA. What happens then? Do Meath lose the points to a county that wasn't punished for failing to fulfil the game on the original date? Surely not. And if Meath were penalised, it would seem like solid grounds for a strike, certainly by comparison with the basis for Cork's walk-out.
The official GAA line is that Cork won't be thrown out of the League until such a time as both teams miss two games. It's a diplomatic approach but it creates a very dangerous precedent. How can the GAA deny postponements for far more legitimate reasons if they allow Cork go unpunished for messing up the League?
Cork's selfish stand has gone too far. The Board has failed in its responsibility to run county affairs properly, while the players have over-played their hand to a ridiculous degree.
Both need to learn that the GAA world doesn't revolve solely around their planet. Yes, Cork would be terrible loss to the League, even more so to the Championship. But when does the patience tank finally run dry? Judging by the feedback from around the country over the past few days, Cork are now running on empty and unless they re-acquaint themselves with reality very quickly indeed, they will become no more than an asterisk to the 2008 season.
Maybe it's time they were told to go to hell.