Examiner Sports column, 22 Feb 2008

March 21, 2008

Business
as usual, just quieter than usual

AFTER the goings-on over the last couple
of months you might think the mini-spat
over Cork’s forfeiting of national league points is like another wearying chapter in a book that never seems to end.

Not a bit of it. After the Row That Dare Not Speak Its Name, a little run-of-the-mill crankiness, name-calling and finger-pointing is like a
holiday.

First things first. If Cork had been thrown out of the leagues, not having fulfilled fixtures in hurling and football, then nobody on Leeside could have had many complaints. (Although … hair-splitting though it may be, we understand the GAA agreed to defer the Meath football game, and that Cork were available to play
Waterford. Just saying).

What’s disappointing is the intransigence on the Dublin and Meath sides. You’d have hoped a little goodwill could have been generated to free up maybe a midweek clash with Dublin, for instance.

After all, it’s not as if the Dubs haven’t had goodwill extended to them in the past:
Westmeath were seriously discommoded when they had the throw-in for a championship game delayed because Dublin fans couldn’t make it from Clonliffe Road into Croke Park for the scheduled start time. But they played anyway.

Before we’re accused of bias, consider what one inter-county manager had this to say on the issue earlier in the week: “I’m very disappointed that counties like Meath and Dublin, who are held in such esteem, would take points in these circumstances. Could they not offer to re-fix the games with Cork at their convenience, maybe even in midweek?

“Meath were due to have home venue anyway and Dublin should get it too so why couldn’t they play those games in
midweek rather than having a training session? Who wants points if you don’t play for them?”

The thoughts of Monaghan football boss Seamus McEnaney. He’s not alone, by the way.

Earlier in the week Armagh manager Peter McDonnell said his side would have been agreeable to a re-fixture if one of the games Cork missed had been against the Orchard County. “It’s not about picking up points as if in a lottery,” said McDonnell. “What happened in Cork was unfortunate but we’re all GAA people so there should be a degree of
flexibility now that they’re back in the fold.

“From an Armagh perspective, I would not want points for a game we didn’t play. How much better off would we be in real terms by finishing higher up the table through points we didn’t earn on the pitch?”

Now, a cynic might point out that Monaghan and Armagh both share a division with Cork, Dublin and Meath, and that McEneaney and McDonnell have a vested interest.

But their points are valid, particularly the Monaghan manager’s. His side are being punished because Dublin and Meath are unwilling to help Cork out.

Everyone shouldn’t rush at once to make the point that the initial problem arose because of Cork’s strike. It was still within Dublin and Meath’s power to help re-fix those games, and they chose not to do so. The consequence which nobody seems willing to point out is that it makes an utter nonsense of the league, which is now a shambles halfway through February.

The contrast with Kilkenny’s attitude in the hurling league couldn’t be more striking.

The Cats’ eagerness to play Cork has been interpreted several ways, with explanations ranging from Kilkenny’s anxiety for hard games to an keenness to do the right thing for hurling.

On its merits, however, the generosity of Ned Quinn and Brian Cody is unlikely to be forgotten for a long time in Cork and further afield.

Another likely side effect is the strengthening of prejudices among hurling snobs everywhere.

The knowing looks and satisfied nods will be all the more knowing and satisfied after this
particular exchange, with artistocrats of the game putting aside petty considerations of bureaucracy and procedure for the wicked chuckle of hurleys as dust — or mud — rises in the small square . . . ahem. Back to normality all around, then.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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