Examiner Sports piece, Cork strike, 2007.

March 27, 2008

Getting to the heart of Cork selection

WHERE DOES it end? Last Friday we wrote here about Norman Mailer, the famously combative American writer who died last week. Norman was a man who loved an argument, but it’s doubtful whether even he would have enjoyed separating the Cork players and their county board.

First things first: the question of whether or not an inter-county manager should or should not be able to choose his own backroom team answers itself. It beggars belief that any experienced coach would be happy to have
colleagues imposed by an outside body,
colleagues with whom he would be expected to forge working relationships — and then succeed with them at inter-county level.

As one player said, making switches in the heat of a Munster championship game is hard enough for a manager who knows the selector standing at his shoulder on the sideline. How could two strangers work like that?

Reverting to an old system is no answer. There was a time when it was believed that drinking water during a game played on a hot day was harmful, and nobody is suggesting reverting to that system. Novelty isn’t a guarantee of quality, of course. But neither is venerability.

The notion of addressing the fixtures
problem which affects the club player by way of changes in inter-county management isn’t so much odd as vaguely insulting. Think about it: if the motivation for changing the
selectorial appointment system is to create a more fixture-friendly selection committee, isn’t there an implication that that incoming group will be more malleable — that whatever about previous regimes, this particular man-
ager and selectors will be more easily influenced when inter-county replays and back-door games need to be accommodated?

It’s unlikely that Teddy Holland and his
incoming backroom team, no matter who they are, would see themselves as puppets.
Fixtures aren’t an issue, but a problem, and one that needs to be addressed directly rather than obliquely.

So, is the current crisis about something else? Money was cited as the real motivation behind the change in the management-selector system last weekend, and a few figures have fluttered in the air since then.

One of those figures is 150,000, the value of the board’s deal with Coca-Cola which has since ended. The players are getting the heat for that one, but as pointed out elsewhere on this page, they say they offered a compromise deal to the board during the summer which was rejected. The players’ decision to threaten a strike has been criticised as hasty, but that maybe depends on what you take as a beginning point in the negotiating process. We said ‘where does it end?’ at the head of this
column; maybe we should have asked ‘where does it start?’

The stand-off has sparked plenty of chat, a lot of it inane or insulting. But it has put the spotlight on the workings of the county board, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

We’re not being sarcastic or condescending when we say that. The focus on procedure — notice of motion and so forth — has maybe concentrated minds and brought home to people that they should pay more attention to what goes on in committee rooms.

Of course, a focus on procedure can have other results. It occurred to us during the week that the seven-man committee which was appointed by the county board to find a new manager was supposed to be made up of four members of the executive and three club representatives. The four executive representatives were board chairman Mick Dolan,
secretary Frank Murphy, treasurer Pearse
Murphy and development officer Declan Walsh.

The club representatives were board members Finbarr Hennessey, Kieran Hegarty and Bob Honohan. However, Honohan is the county board’s Central Council delegate rather than a club delegate, which means the agreed club representation on the sub-committee was one short.

Accordingly, is the committee composed along the agreed lines? If not, does it have any standing, or, more pertinently, its recommendations? No doubt there’s a ready answer. But the fact that there’s a debate to start with is something to take away from the week.

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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