Irish Examiner Sports Column November 14 2008

November 24, 2008

The gods make
their own
importance

Nickey Brennan: says the GAA won’t be getting involved in Cork dispute.

PATRICK KAVANAGH could have offered the right description of the Cork hurling crisis, the kind of local row which sparked the Illiad in Homer’s mind.

That undersells the newsprint and airtime generated this time round, of course — this instalment of the row has sparked enough chat and observation to fill the Odyssey as well, and you’d have a fair chance of completing the word count for the Aeneid while you’re at it.

Everybody has an opinion on the matter they’re willing to share, and
it’s unfortunate that some of those
offerings aren’t entirely helpful.

Take a step back from the immediate combatants and consider some of the contributions from the GAA
hierarchy in recent weeks.

Last week Director-General Paraic Duffy described the contretemps on Leeside as relating to local circumstances rather than being a national trend.

President Nickey Brennan concurred and expanded: “From a GAA perspective, that’s a local Cork issue now and they’ll have to deal with it locally. . . what happened earlier this year is well known. We got involved and we’re not getting involved on this occasion.”

Too late. The world’s most eagerly anticipated challenge game, the St Colman’s Legends v Cork match fixed for November 23rd, has fallen by the wayside due to the new GAA ban on all collective inter-county activity,
including training and challenge games, during the months of November and December. Could that be read as involvement?

The chairman of the Central
Competitions Control Committee (CCCC), Jimmy Dunne, said on Wednesday night: “A number of counties have applied to play challenge matches during this so-called closed season and all those requests were turned down by the CCCC.”

The timing of the announcement is particularly unfortunate, given that Nickey Brennan insisted only last week that the fixture in Fermoy would be exempt from the new
ruling: “We are allowing trial games on a limited basis and we are viewing this match as a trial game.

“This is very much a special occasion which is being played to honour the considerable contribution of St Colman’s College to hurling in Cork. We are taking the spirit of why the game is being played into account.”

The reasoning behind the playing and training ban — to lessen the threat of player burnout — is an irony that need not delay us here unduly.

What is worth examining is whether the GAA hierarchy are sure if this is a total ban or not, whether they have any appetite for enforcing it, or whether — as it seems — this is an ad hoc arrangement with guidelines
being improvised on the hoof. Whichever it is, it seems strange that the President of the GAA is making statements affirming that certain games are going ahead while one of the most powerful committees in the Association is ruling out those matches.

We’ve had those contradictions served up before. Last December Nickey Brennan commented on the last stand-off in Cork GAA circles, saying: “This is an internal situation for Cork which we are not getting
involved in.

“We believe that there are enough wise heads on both sides to sort the matter out and I would be very
confident that the matter will be
resolved quite soon.”

By early February Brennan had asked Kieran Mulvey of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) to intervene in the dispute, a move which, in fairness, eventually led to the strike being resolved.

In the meantime, at the time of going to press yesterday St Colman’s had not received any official contact from Croke Park regarding the postponement of the game, while on Wednesday night Cork County Board chairman Mick Dolan admitted that he was in the dark regarding the fixture.

Kavanagh was right when he said gods make their own importance.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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