Cork crisis, 26 February 2009

February 26, 2009

Under-fire board left clinging to letter of the law

ON TUESDAY night the Cork County Board met and dismissed last Sunday’s meeting of players and club
officials in Cork as having “no standing” in the rules of the GAA.
The board added that suggestions it was “hiding” behind the rules were wrong.
Consider the backdrop to that meeting: last Sunday the 2008 hurlers received huge backing from the club chairmen and officials they invited to the meeting in the Maryborough House Hotel, with vocal condemnations from the floor of that meeting of the board’s modus operandi.
Last Friday GAA President-elect Christy Cooney and director-general Pauric Duffy made their peace proposals public, which would have removed from the executive all functions from picking senior intercounty managers to fixture planning.
Cooney is a former chairman of Cork County Board and has an intimate knowledge of its operations. What does that say about his co-authorship of that emasculating document?
Last Saturday fortnight over 10,000 people took to the streets of Cork to protest in support of last year’s panel, though soon afterwards there were suggestions that some or many of those people were not fully paid-up members of the GAA, even if anecdotal evidence undermined that particular notion.
Finally, in October of last year the 2008 panel put the board on notice that they would not play for Gerald McCarthy if reappointed.
Taken together, that forms a practically perfect circle of opposition around the executive of the Cork County Board.
From the top it has been condemned as not fit for purpose by the GAA hierarchy; from below it faces rebellion from its own clubs and members.
Its elite hurlers will not play for the board, while its elite footballers may be only six weeks away from joining those hurlers on the sidelines (if they don’t qualify for the league play-offs).
The suggestion that the marchers were semi-detached fans or Saturday shoppers has also rebounded spectacularly; if those marchers weren’t GAA members it’s yet another constituency the executive has alienated — the ‘casual’ fan.
The GAA elite, the GAA grassroots, the GAA’s top box-office draw, the GAA support: is there any group the Cork County Board can’t alienate?

The executive pointed to rule 59 of the official guide of the GAA last Tuesday night to underline their authority in this matter.
Surely somebody can point out that when you have to say you’re the authority on something because you can show where that’s written in a rulebook, then the show is over.
If you need to remind people of your authority then there’s a good reason why they’ve forgotten about it.
One of the most telling contributions to last Sunday’s meeting came when motions were being discussed, and one club official warned that those
motions would have to be worded perfectly.
He was contradicted by another speaker, who stressed that that
kind of nitpicking was part of the trouble.
That’s one of the most unattractive aspects of the GAA. Not so much the glorying in the technicalities — pedants thrive in every walk of life — but the fostering of a culture of fear in which initiatives must be parsed not so much for their advantages or disadvantages on merit but for the fine print of their legalese and the hollow joy of finding a drafting error or a procedural mistake.
There are alternatives to that
culture. Last Tuesday night a board delegate likened the Maryborough meeting to an election rally for Barack Obama, and he may have a point, but not in terms of choreography.
Obama’s favourite book is ‘Team of Rivals’, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s account of how Abraham Lincoln drew electoral opponents into his cabinet, getting them to work together and triumph over adversity.
In a county other than Cork
disparate elements looking to achieve reform could be drawn
together.
But only in a county other than Cork.

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