Irish Examiner Sports Column November 21 2008

November 24, 2008

20-11-2008
Tony Leen

Challenge may leave
poisonous
legacy

YESTERDAY morning this column spent some time in the company of Gus

Kelleher, Denis Coakley and Garvin Queeney, teachers at St Colman’s

College in Fermoy.

They started their preparations for next Sunday, and the St Colman’s 150th
anniversary game against Cork, months ago, and up to a few weeks ago it looked
like a nice winter diversion.

As of now they look to have organised the Most Anticipated Challenge Match Of
All Time for this weekend.

However, there can’t be any debate about whether this game should be

going ahead or not. The moratorium on inter-county activity in the months of
November and December which was announced earlier this year was
definitive
and unambiguous.

It also came with warnings attached: GAA director-general Paraic Duffy said
at the time that if the close season
directive were ignored, then sanctions
would be forthcoming. He said: “If a manager insists on going ahead we would
deal with that if it happened.”

That, presumably, was behind the CCCC decision to call the game off,
announced in this newspaper last Thursday.

It was one occasion on which a politic, discreet deferral would have been a
godsend. It would have given time to cool matters down in Cork and given some
valuable breathing space to all concerned, and an alternative date could have
been found for the game, say, in early January. If the dispute still lingered
then fair enough: everybody could take their chances.

Within a day, however, it transpired that the game was going ahead after all.
GAA President Nickey Brennan had said previously that the game was a “special
event”, and that was the
reasoning behind the reversal, which tabloid custom
demands we call
“a sensational/dramatic u-turn”.

The GAA’s initial policy decision was aimed at avoiding player burnout; bear
that in mind when considering that if a Glen Rovers U21 plays on Sunday it will
be his 10th weekend in a row on the field of play. Some player welfare.

The Association’s volte face has also given rise to an entirely different
form of burnout, this one involving fibre-
optic cables and mobile phone
batteries. A welter of calls have been made in the Cork area in the last week —
between selectors and potential players and
between potential players and

established players.

In a nutshell, promising youngsters are being invited to play senior hurling
for Cork, knowing that in some
instances their own teammates are

vehemently against that idea.

What does that mean? Trouble.
Consider it from this perspective: If a
‘new’ player lines out for Cork on
Sunday, what happens when that player
goes back to his club the following week and sits in the same dressing-
room
as another player who asked him not to play in that game?

Unfortunately, neither Nickey Brennan nor Paraic Duffy will be on hand to
sort out any problems that arise as a
result. As one close observer of the
Cork scene pointed out to this writer during the week, those problems are likely
to arise in training sessions and low-key league games, far from the hot glare
of publicity, and that poison will linger for a generation of players.

 

 

WHY DID nobody in Croke Park think of that? Given the fact that the Cork
hurlers missed out on national hurling league fixtures last season, the GAA
hierarchy surely didn’t think the prospect of missing a challenge game would
send those players back into their training bibs?

While it is understood that the Cork County Board was anxious that the game
would go ahead despite the
current stand-off, surely those at the top of the
GAA tree could have prevailed upon them to abide by the original CCCC decision.

As it is, those players and selectors who take the field for Cork in Sunday’s
game are liable for suspensions for breaching the moratorium. And despite the
talk of a development squad earlier in the week, this is a Cork team.

Recently, comments were reported from the county board to the effect that it
had never been intended to include members of this season’s Cork hurling squad
anyway for the St Colman’s game. Nonsense: otherwise 25 members of the 2008 Cork
hurling squad would not have been contacted about that same game a couple of
weeks ago.

Ironically, though the Cork County Board might be grateful to be rid of their
troublesome priests through retirement and banishment, it should consider that
if the “development squad” is suspended for breaching the moratorium, who will
be left to line out in the red jersey next year?

Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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