Monday 20 January 2020

Cyril Farrell: Cunningham doesn't deserve to be treated so poorly

Anthony Cunningham should either have been re-appointed weeks ago or told that he was out. Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Cunningham should either have been re-appointed weeks ago or told that he was out. Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

Cyril Farrell

I know what I would do if I were Anthony Cunningham. I would say to the Galway Hurling Board; "nice knowing you lads - I'm off."

Galway lost to Tipperary in the qualifiers in early July, yet the process of deciding who will be in charge next year is far from completed.

So what's the hurry? Clearly there isn't one as far as the Board is concerned, but things should be moving a lot quicker.

Cunningham completed his three-year term this season and is obviously interested in continuing. It's for others to decide whether or not he will, bit for God's sake, do it.

The old-fashioned system of asking for nominations from clubs still applies in Galway but it's comical altogether this year because the outgoing manager is keen to continue. So, in effect, he has to be nominated in the same way as any other candidate.

It doesn't end there. The Board retains the right to nominate someone who hasn't been suggested by the clubs, most likely an outsider. That's saying to Cunningham and the other internal candidates that if the Board isn't satisfied with them, they can look elsewhere. It's not exactly a vote of confidence in the local lads.

Cunningham should either have been re-appointed weeks ago or told that he was out. Instead, the Board are saying: "Anthony, we're happy to have your name in the hat, but if we get anyone who we consider better, then bye-bye and good luck."

Unfair

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That's downright unfair on Cunningham, who has done his utmost over the past three years. I've been critical of some of his decisions, just as I'm sure he would question somebody else if they were in charge, but once it's done in a constructive manner, there's no problem.

I wrote the week after Galway lost to Tipperary that I thought Cunningham should be given another year. As events transpired, with Kilkenny and Tipperary - the two teams that beat Galway - reaching the All-Ireland final, it made his position stronger.

He should not be left in limbo for so long. Sack him or back him but don't insult him by going through a process that's giving the clear impression they if somebody considered better comes along, Cunningham will be dropped. And if he is re-appointed, will he have the respect of the players when the Board dithered for so long?

Cork chairman, Bob Ryan, stated straight away after the semi-final defeat by Tipperary that they wanted Jimmy Barry-Murphy to stay on. No doubts, no equivocation, just a clear statement of support. At least JBM knows where he stands.

So where do the leadership of the Galway Hurling Board stand in relation to Cunningham? Are they for him or against him? Isn't that what leadership is about? He's entitled to know after giving such outstanding service to Galway since the day he came into the minor squad in 1983.

It's one of a few leadership issues that concern me. It extends beyond the Hurling Board and into the County Board, because they deal with Leinster and Croke Park.

Why on earth are Galway minors and U-21s not playing in the Leinster championship? Antrim too, for that matter, but that's their concern. Galway seniors finished their sixth season in Leinster this year, yet there isn't a word about the minors and seniors following them.

Instead, Galway remains stuck with the old system, waiting for Munster and Leinster to complete their championship before joining in. The fact that Galway have done well at minor and U-21 level over the years is being used as an excuse to retain the status quo. In fact, there are those in Galway who would withdraw the seniors from Leinster too.

Galway U-21s lost to Wexford last Saturday, but would it have been different if that wasn't their first game? Would Galway not have been better off playing in Leinster, getting games in the early rounds like everyone else? The same goes for the minors.

And here's a thing. Galway might not have won as many U-21 or minor titles over the years if they were in Leinster but it might actually have served the senior set-up better.

Of course, the word is that Leinster counties don't want Galway at underage level. If that's true, then it's a Croke Park problem. If the system wants Galway seniors in Leinster, it can't reject the underage teams.

Again, it's up to Galway to demand inclusion in Leinster, instead of tipping away in isolation. And if Leinster don't want the underage teams, then the seniors should threaten to withdraw and make it a Croke Park concern for the All-Ireland championship.

Also, it has also been suggested that the view among Leinster counties is "Tullamore and no further" when it comes to playing Galway in the championship. Again, if that's true and nobody is prepared to enter into a 'home' and 'away' arrangement with Galway, then it's a national issue.

You either have full integration or nothing and if Galway are playing in Leinster, they have to be treated the same as the rest, which means some home games. Again, it's up to Galway to ask questions, try to make things happen and, if they're rejected, then make it a matter for Croke Park. In other words, stand up and fight your corner.

The big thing Galway hurling needs is real leadership all the way to County Board level. Muddling along is not good enough.

A week to tweak as Cody and O'Shea finalise All-Ireland battle plans

Eight days to go and excitement is mounting. The last week before an All-Ireland final can drag on for players, but since Tipperary and Kilkenny are used to it, they will take it in their stride.

Both Brian Cody and Eamon O'Shea have some decisions to make but, in the end, they will keep the teams pretty close to the starting line-ups for the semi-finals. At this stage, the big thing is to avoid injuries.

There are risks right up to the last session (remember Galway goalkeeper, James Skehill getting injured on the Friday night before the replay two years ago?) but there's nothing than can be done about that.

Hurlers and footballers are different to international players, in that they work at their day jobs the week before a game and remain very much part of their community, whereas rugby and soccer teams are closeted away in hotels.

It's nice to have things as normal but it's important that supporters leave the players to themselves. If you can't get a ticket, don't ask a player, however well you know him. He has enough to be thinking about.

Irish Independent

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