Wednesday 21 February 2018

Thursday Talk: Offaly strikers won't be doing a Cork on it

PJ Cunningham

IT is somewhat ironic that in the week the Cork hurlers won the All-Ireland that the Offaly footballers should go on strike in a row with their county board over the treatment of their manager.

The Cork players saw no way out a few years ago other than to go on strike because of their frustration with their county board. You could say that Sunday's victory over Kilkenny was vindication of that action. But it also left you to wonder who would be champions had they not taken such a course of action.

The Offaly players too are driven by an ambition to win major honours. And if they are prepared to take this ultimate stance, they obviously believe Gerry Fahy's vision of the future is more in tune with their goals than those of the county board.

Fahy had produced what he considered to be a blueprint for success, but his plan was greeted with little apparent enthusiasm from the county board, and he was only re-appointed on a 27-26 vote by delegates recently.

It's a fairly open secret in the county that key officials are not best pals with Fahy.

Indeed, when arguably the most respected person associated with Offaly football offered to act as an intermediary to hammer out a workable resolution for both sides, one side didn't respond positively.

When I heard that, I knew there was trouble ahead. And I must say I've been less than impressed with the way the issue has been handled since then.

For instance, the delegate who proposed that Fahy should not be allowed continue was subsequently put on a sub-committee to meet him when he scraped through by one vote. Now, what does that tell you about how much Gerry Fahy was wanted?

Subtle it wasn't, but it did speak volumes. And it worked too because it left Fahy with no choice but to resign, which is obviously what was intended.

But the plan back-fired when the players came into the picture.

Paul O'Kelly got the axe after seven months last year despite losing after a replay to Laois, who went on to claim the Leinster title.

Fahy had nine wins out of twelve during his time in charge, restored the county to Division One status for the coming year, and overall he deserved support for what he wanted to achieve.

On either side of the county boundary, in Laois and Westmeath, he saw new levels of preparation being set and he wanted to compete on a more even keel.

He's by no means the finished article as an inter-county manager, but he has a lot of the drive and conviction Eugene McGee had in the late seventies when he too had to out-manoeuvre the county board before delivering three Leinsters in a row, as well as the never-to-be-forgotten All-Ireland triumph in '82.

There is no doubt that McGee too would have departed without success but for the support of the two key people in the county board at the time.

Fahy doesn't have that support, so unless the players' strike works as it did in Cork, the chances are he won't be back.

And the odds are that Offaly won't be doing a Cork in the near future and celebrating an All-Ireland success.

Before we go off the subject, it is worth noting that all seven All-Irelands which Offaly have won at senior level have come with outside managers at the helm - in football, Fr Gilhooley from Westmeath in '71 and '72, and Eugene McGee (Longford) in '82; and in hurling, Diarmuid Healy (Kilkenny) in '81 and '85, Eamon Cregan (Limerick) in '94, and Michael Bond (Galway) in '98.

IT'S time the GAA came clean on the Croke Park surface and just dug the thing up.

You would have thought that someone like Henry Shefflin had enough on his plate with the Cork defence last Sunday than have to be worrying about how to go for a ball and stand upright at the same time.

There was one incident where he looked as if he had taken a haymaker from Larry Holmes as he wriggled to keep his footing - further proof that the green underfoot stuff is indeed the Achilles heel of this magnificent stadium.

You would think that playing in Croke Park is the ultimate goal of most youngsters, yet one minor team which played there this summer were virtually unanimous in their desire to have the replay switched out of headquarters. Why? Because the players could not trust the grass - regardless of what type of boot they used.

THE Ryder Cup is upon us again and Pádraig Harrington is bang in form as the Europeans prepare for battle against the hosts out in Detroit.

It's a big ask for Bernhard Langer to hold onto the Cup, but one thing for sure - if they are to win, then it will probably need one of the Irish to act as hero supreme again.

If you look at the teams individually, it's hard to make a case for the visitors, but if recent meetings are anything to go by, something happens to the European twelve once they tee off on the Friday.

WALLY OF THE WEEK: Monsieur Silvestre, aka Headless, was again sans tete as he went about proving himself to be Bolton's most potent attacking option everytime he went near the ball as a Man U defender at the Reebok Stadium last Saturday.

And if he does this against a team from the middle to lower end of the Premiership, then what will he do when the aristocrats of Europe ask questions of him? Help United to another Champions' League success?

SCORE OF THE WEEK: Brian Corcoran may not be Setanta, but he was a sort of Cúchulainn for Cork on Sunday when he provided the attacking fulcrum for victory against Kilkenny. Sometimes the gods who do the script writing are predictable, but black and amber fans' aside, no one would have begrudged him that last point as a crowning moment on his comeback to victory.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: With the All-Ireland final producing poor fare from the two most decorated counties, we can be thankful that Pádraig Harrington gave us a few hours of magic in Cologne when he came from six strokes down with 16 to play to win by three strokes. It just proves that the Dubliner has the potential to win a Major. And he could start on that road with a super showing in America this weekend.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I said to Thomas (Bjorn) earlier this week that the only guy I was concerned about was Pádraig because he wasn't playing his best." - A relieved Bernhard Langer on Sunday evening following Harrington's scintillating final two-day charge which brought him victory in the German Masters.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK: The Sunday Game normally brings a sense of perspective to an All-Ireland series and final itself. This week though produced some bizarre conclusions about hurling and this year's campaign. Maybe there is another championship on that I'm not aware of because, aside from a few great Sundays, this was far from a vintage year. Then again, it was a far from a vintage Sunday Game.

SAVE OF THE WEEK: Kilkenny had one chance of challenging Cork's supremacy last Sunday when Henry Shefflin went for goal against Donal Óg Cusack in the second half. Had the shot gone in, the game was back in the melting pot. But the Cloyne man swooped to conquer and after that the result was never in doubt.

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