Cork County Board Convention piece 15 Dec 2008

December 18, 2008

14-12-2008
Colm O’Connor

The gloom show

THE chill was beginning to bite as Cork County Board’s annual Convention came to order last Saturday night. Expectations of fire and brimstone in the main hall of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, however, weren’t fulfilled.

Given the reams of criticism that administrators in Cork GAA have
attracted in recent years, it’s worth
remembering that those who turned up for the convention weren’t draped in the freshly skinned pelts of GPA members. Nor were they carrying torches like the mob in a horror film, ready to advance on the creature’s lair.

Those in Páirc Uí Chaoimh were indistinguishable from their counterparts in other counties and other sports. Middle-aged men for the most part, taking few chances with their wardrobe, sitting in a large hall with photographs of past teams on the walls: the picture is replicated from Malin to Mizen at this time of year.

Their concerns in the meeting were no different to those in other counties also: fixture congestion and clubs
trying to field teams, the search for administrators and player eligibility.

The sharpest exchange early on centred on the knotty issue of players choosing between lining out for UCC and Cork IT, while on sports bursaries at those colleges, or playing for their division: exactly the kind of local issue that a county convention is made for.

Unfortunately, another issue, which long ago ceased being local, was also destined to be raised. The impasse between the Cork senior hurlers, the Cork hurling manager and the Cork County Board was always likely to dominate discussions, and so it did.

In the course of a debate which lasted the better part of 90 minutes, club representatives aired their views of the stand-off as soon as board officers Bob Ryan and Jerry O’Sullivan finished outlining their efforts to restart negotiations with the players.

There were speakers who said the county board had made its decision regarding the senior hurling manager, that it was time to get on with the job and with the players who were willing to play for Cork. The county was a laughing stock, damage was being done to clubs, and so on.

No surprise in that.

What was surprising was that other speakers told the officers of the board at the top table in the hall that they were responsible for the mess.

Others expected more action from the board to deal with the situation.

And some offered solutions. One club delegate noted plans were being made for a new hurling academy and suggested that Cork manager Gerald McCarthy be moved upstairs to run that academy, giving everyone the
opportunity to save face, as he put it; that contribution drew applause.

Another club representative asked if the board was satisfied that the appropriate process had been followed in appointing McCarthy, warning there could be serious consequences if that was not the case, but secretary Frank Murphy assured the convention not alone was decision reached in binding arbitration followed, the spirit of that decision had also been followed.

Murphy expanded his answer to give an overview of the five meetings of the seven-man appointment committee, which had been made up of five board members and two players. When one of the delegates wondered if the interview process could be
revisited — as that appeared to be the point where the appointment
committee had come to grief — the county secretary replied that that was past tense, and not something that could be returned to.

Other points followed from the floor: that a resolution could not be reached at the cost of Gerald McCarthy; that the board was being stonewalled in its attempts to contact the players; why was a player representative not invited to speak at the convention, and so on.

Eventually it was decided that incoming board President Derry Gowen would appoint a person to try to set up a committee involving representatives of the players, the board and the senior hurling management committee. Then President-elect Christy Cooney made some remarks and it was back to the uncomfortable seating in the uncovered stand, the knock-on effects of the proposed cuts in education funding for GAA clubs…

The ordinary problems and challenges facing the organisation were
almost embraced, they were so
humdrum.

Saturday night proved that a resolution is as far away as ever, which is hardly news; neither is the fact that the Cork County Board is satisfied it has acted properly. The hurt and distress displayed by the club representatives, a fair representative sample of GAA people, was no surprise either. The truly depressing aspects of the evening were the fact that they’ve been there before, the fact that they’re there again, and the likelihood that there’ll be more pain before the end.

Outside afterwards the frost was all over the cars.

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