Irish Examiner Column 4 September 2009

September 25, 2009

GAA’s dual
thinking lives on

IS THERE any irony to be mined from the tributes being paid to Cork County Board secretary, Frank
Murphy, falling on the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II?

The first question to ask is a simple one: what exactly has inspired these tributes? The secretary has not retired; he continues to work in Cork and will be operating at the top level of GAA administration for the next few years, according to the Director-General of the organisation, Pauric Duffy, who was quoted yesterday as saying: “I’m sure he will continue to play a part at local and national level for a period of time and he has just started a three-year term as the Rules Advisory Group chairman and is a member of our stadium executive.”

Cork County Board chairman Jerry O’Sullivan went even further, outlining he “would expect that there would be some crossover period for the new person to bed in and learn the ropes.”

If the incumbent county secretary is going nowhere, then what exactly has inspired these fulsome tributes?

For a fuller, more detailed example of GAA doublethink, however,
consider Duffy’s other comments: that Murphy has made a huge contribution to the GAA in Cork and nationally.

It’s a comment worth placing alongside the peace plan that GAA chiefs outlined for Cork earlier this year, which involved removing every function proper to the executive of a county board, from fixture management to selecting inter-county managers.

Duffy signed off on that plan. So did GAA President Christy Cooney.

Some readers may feel it unfair to link the two, pointing to the secretary being just one voice on the executive rather than the dominant force in Cork GAA for almost four decades.

They’re correct. It would be a gross insult to the office holders in the board executive to suggest that one man had led them in every major decision — and a good few minor ones — since 1972. Nobody would dare suggest that they weren’t their own men.

But Cork County Board PRO Ger Lane opened the Pandora’s box when he pinpointed the county secretary’s achievements, pointing to the “acquisition of Páirc Uí Rinn, the elimination of the debt on Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the Cork County Board draw and the great victories of the Cork teams since he took office are also a tribute to his prowess”.

Fair enough. But the problem in claiming those undoubted victories as the secretary’s achievements is there’s a danger that parallel disappointments can also be laid at his door.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh is an uncomfortable hulk which regularly suffers access problems on big match days, for instance. Purchasing Páirc Uí Rinn and the board draw offer further evidence of the economic power of the county board, but plenty of GAA members in the Rebel County would prefer that financial muscle to be flexed by investing in more games development officers than the five recently appointed.

As for the “great victories of Cork teams since he took office”, well, there’s so much to work with there that we hardly know where to begin.

We’ll be coming back to this one.

By the way, for those who may feel that GAA doublethink exists only in Cork, or in relation to Cork, take the complaints of the Kerry senior footballers in recent times about a couple of their players being featuring on the front pages of the newspapers.

These complaints concentrated on the specific charge of the players
sharing space with other less celebrated newsmakers on the front page.

One of the players concerned was so irate about being splashed on the front pages, he made his feelings known: “I made the front pages of the newspapers,” said Colm Cooper, going on to wonder what the world was coming to if a 26-year-old had a few drinks etc.

You can read exactly what he said, by the way. He made the point in an interview which was splashed across the front pages of a newspaper.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie; Twitter MikeMoynihanEx

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