These five men can solve crisis in Cork
IF anything can be taken as a certainty in the seemingly interminable Cork row it is this: the blame game has proved utterly unproductive.
So have propaganda, entrenchment, power trips, egotism and hints at sporting martyrdom. What's required now is a fresh, imaginative dynamic solution, one that offers the warring factions a face-saving exit strategy. Perhaps Labour Relations Commission chairman, Kieran Mulvey and Paraic Duffy can find the solution over the next few days but even if they can't the search must go on.
Presumably the players and County Board want an early solution. Mind you, neither side appears to have been feeding peace doves in their quieter moments. On the contrary both have behaved extremely provocatively.
The County Board started it by changing the rules of engagement for appointing selectors and then proceeding with the appointment of Teddy Holland even as the players' opposition was gathering momentum. The players' nuclear response was to press the strike button prematurely, leaving no room to manoeuvre.
Nor have the players helped the situation by some of their public comments over the past few weeks. Granted, they wanted to win public support but there are times when silence is the most effective weapon in the propaganda war.
Anyway, the upshot of it all is that Cork is in a shocking mess, one which not even the diplomacy and negotiating skills of Mulvey could solve so far. But then he found himself in an impossible position during his first attempt, running between the trenches while dodging the grenades which the rival factions were trading.
Eleven days on, Mulvey is to try again. The fact that he has travelled south suggests that movement may be nigh but even if it's not, the search for peace has to go on, only this time under different ground rules involving a courageous leap of faith by players and Board. If they jump together, this can be solved very quickly.
What's more, neither side loses face or commits to anything in the long term. So what's the big idea? Actually, it's simple, provided the necessary goodwill exists on both sides. Here's how it works:
1. Assemble a strike Settlement Committee under Mulvey's chairmanship but this time also include four others. My choices would be Robbie Kelleher, former Dublin footballer and Head of Research with Davy Stockbrokers; John Callinan, former Clare hurler and Ennis-based solicitor; former Roscommon star, Dermot Earley who is Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces; Peter Quinn, former GAA President and successful business man.
Nobody could argue with their credentials. Kelleher and Callinan were among the founder members of the first GAA Players' Association in the early 1980's; Earley's army career makes him a diplomacy expert while Quinn is a shrewd, straight-talking operator.
2. Change the negotiation teams representing the Cork players and the Board so that nobody who has sat in on the failed attempts so far is included. This would remove personality issues and lower temperatures, thus leading to a better working climate.
Crucially, players, Board and newly-appointed football manager, Teddy Holland would sign up in advance to accept the findings of the Settlement Committee until the end of this year's championships, after which all outstanding issues would be reviewed.
3. The Settlement Committee would hear both sides, separately and jointly, and make a binding judgement, based purely on the absolute imperative of getting the Cork teams back in action.
The major advantage of these proposals is that they give all sides an escape clause in the short term, knowing that if required, everything can be re-visited again next autumn. For instance, if the proposal involved retaining Teddy Holland as football manager then the players would have to accept that but only on the basis of a review at the year's end.
Similarly, Holland would have to stand down for this season if that were the recommendation. As for the Board, they would, in the short term, have to scrap their proposals to choose selectors if the recommendation suggested went against them.
This plan scores under every heading. It's a temporary solution so that nobody commits to anything beyond the end of the season; given the quality of the Settlement Committee a deal would be well thought-out; nobody loses face and, most importantly, players return to action immediately.
All it takes now is for the parties to offer the compromise and for the GAA to line up the five men (or others of their choice). Once that happens, this sorry mess can be sorted out in five hours (two each with the warring parties and one to reach a conclusion). That's assuming, of course, that Mulvey and Duffy haven't already speeded up the thawing process, thereby making further interventions redundant.
Rugby fans blow cold
WHATEVER about the on-pitch efficiency of the Irish rugby team, the supporters turned in a truly wretched performance at last Saturday's international with Italy. Probably never in the history of the stadium -- either before or since its redevelopment -- did a packed Croke Park have so little atmosphere.
Late arrivals, heavy traffic to the bars before half-time and a sizeable exodus prior to the end of a game which remained close right to the final whistle, suggests that a great many people were there for the occasion rather than the match and that they didn't really give a damn whether Ireland lost or won.
Surely Eddie O'Sullivan, who seems to be blamed for everything else these days, can't be held responsible for such indifference. Then again, anything is possible on Radio Loopy phone-ins.
Corks popping for Tipp?
SO new GAA director general, Paraic Duffy has concerns over the latest All-Ireland hurling championship format, not least as it applies to Antrim who have been handed the programme from hell (first against Galway and if they lose that, a clash with either Clare or Waterford).
That's good news for Antrim who will surely have to endure the appalling injustice for this season only. Even that's too much but hopefully they can look forward to liberation from 2009 on.
The days of the provincial hurling championships are numbered, simply because Munster is the only one which functions in a truly competitive sense, although even that's in doubt this year because unless the Cork row is settled, Tipperary will get a bye into the final. How's that for lop-sided?