Tuesday 20 March 2018

Martin Breheny: Less blaming and more hard work would leave Cork in better position

Pairc Ui Chaoimh
Pairc Ui Chaoimh
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Although it might not have been visible due to autumn's unseasonable grip on summer, the sun rose over Cork on Monday morning.

Granted, it came up over a county whose championship ambitions for 2015 in both hurling and football now reside in the modest environs of intermediate hurling, so the mood was pretty bleak.

Losses to Galway and Kildare by a combined margin of 20 points in the space of 21 hours over the weekend left Cork facing the barest August of the new Millennium.

Internal recriminations and external scrutiny were inevitable, interlinked by the common theme that everyone knows the reason for the failures. Correction: everyone thinks they know.


The scope and scale of the probe has moved from name-calling by Dónal óg Cusack on 'The Sunday Game', to charts displaying a barren underage landscape (hurling), to complaints about coaching, to suggestions that the money allocated for Páirc Uí Chaoimh would be better spent on games development.

The latter may well be correct, but it's not going to happen so there's no point in throwing it into the mix at this stage.

As ever, Frank Murphy was in the firing line, an easy target for dissident voices, who would happily hold him responsible for flooding on the Lee, even if torrential rain poured down for a week.

It's all very neat and easy to centralise blame on one person. Of course, it's also nonsensical but since when did that matter in the age of instant explanations, even for complex issues?

Apart from anything else, it's an insult to everyone in Cork GAA administration to claim that they are ruled by one person.

Much has been made of Cork's underage failures in hurling (no All-Ireland minor title since 2001; no Munster minor title since 2008; no All-Ireland U-21 title since 1998; no Munster U-21 title since 2007) as if they were the sole reason why the senior team is not doing better.

Yet, in football, Cork have won two All-Ireland and ten U-21 Munster titles since 2000. That transferred into one All-Ireland senior title (2010) in what was probably the worst championship of the new Millennium.

Kerry didn't win any All-Ireland minor titles between 1994 and 2014, but picked up seven senior titles in the same period.

Clearly, Cork underage football has been strong, but it hasn't been replicated at senior level. Cork underage hurling has not been anywhere nearly as good and is being blamed for the senior failures.

Isn't there a contradiction there? What guarantee is there that underage hurling success would have ensured a better senior team?

Galway have won eight minor, six U-21 and 12 senior club All-Ireland titles over the past 25 years, but are still waiting their first senior inter-county crown since 1988.

They have won five more All-Ireland minor, U-21 and club titles than Kilkenny since 1990.

Far more remarkably, it's a period in which their title return (26) in those grades is only three behind the combined haul of Cork, Tipperary, Clare, Waterford, Limerick, Offaly, Wexford, Dublin, Laois and Antrim.

Yet, despite having almost as many titles as ten rivals combined in grades that would be regarded as key indicators for the senior county team, Liam MacCarthy hasn't gone west for 27 years.

Isn't there a moral there?

Agenda-driven point-scoring won't help Cork at this raw point in their history. Indeed, the way back to Croke Park might be made easier if the loudest complainers put their shoulders to the wheel, rather than blaming others for driving it into a pothole, not the crater some would have you believe.

Irish Independent

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