The names change, the debates live on

IT WAS county final weather in Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday, and county final conditions.

Patrons will be familiar with the constituent elements: two parts
October sunshine to one part yielding ground, with a breeze cutting down the Marina to spite the clear skies. The cocktail is familiar to anyone who ever attended the Little All-Ireland.

We have a reason for starting with the meteorology, not to mention the geology, one that doesn’t augur well for the entertainment value of the county final itself. Sarsfields and
Newtownshandrum headlined
yesterday and served up an even first half but the game began to die as a contest once Ben O’Connor flicked home his side’s opening goal.

When Newtown added goals from Jamie Coughlan and PJ Copse there were 15 points between the sides with a quarter of the game left. Sarsfields required snookers, if not actually
stuffing the pockets of the table with socks.

It was a surprising demolition given Sars were viewed as slight favourites, and did nothing for the spectators’
enjoyment of the closing stages.

During those final 15 minutes the tension was bearable, frankly.

Newtown won’t be bothered by the fact that the game wasn’t destined to be remembered as one of the great contests; for them it was one of the best displays. And one of the best
results, a historic trimming, 3-22 to 1-12.

History was a constant yesterday in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. After all, one of the men who helped to build the
reputation of the Cork county senior final as a perpetual highlight of the hurling calendar, Din Joe Buckley of Glen Rovers, died last week.

It was good that he was
remembered before the throw-in yesterday with a minute’s silence because he, his team-mates and their
opponents were the men who fought it out in the old Athletic Grounds for the county title and established the competition’s credibility.

Given yesterday’s drubbing it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t always a case of diamond on diamond back then, even — Buckley picked up one of his county championship medals 71 years ago, and that game had echoes of yesterday’s. Back then the Glen were more promising start-up than the corporate superpower they became, much like Newtown; their opponents were Midleton, a traditional east Cork superpower, much like Sarsfields.

Even the scoreline that day has a familiar ring — 5-6 to 1-3, a point less than yesterday’s winning margin.

Other days which recalled the long shadows of autumn were remembered at half-time in the senior game, when the victorious senior captains of the last 25 years were introduced. As ever when you range across a random selection of men from quarter of a century of Irish life, there was a full spectrum of fashion sensibilities on offer — from distressed jeans among the recent winners to muted earth tones for the older men, aligned with classic conservative winter jackets.

They had something in common, though — a shining hour in the old stadium by the river and the memory of having to recall some primary school Irish before wiping their hands and receiving the Sean Óg Murphy Cup. The warmth of the applause was genuine, and if it was a little louder for Kevin Hennessy and Christy Coughlan junior, then that was understandable.

As for Cork observers in the market for optimism next year, they saw Ben O’Connor and his brother play as well as ever.

In terms of fresh blood for the red jersey, Michael Cussen showed neatness in possession and good accuracy for Sarsfields; in the first half he pulled down a couple of high deliveries but couldn’t work a goal opportunity, and as his team fell away he was starved of possession and forced to move outfield. By then Sars were taking water everywhere, however.

Early arrivals saw Eoin Cadogan cruise through the curtain-raiser, the Premier intermediate final between his Douglas side and Ballymartle. Cadogan’s long, smooth stride devoured the ground in Páirc Ui Chaoimh and showed why he’s wanted by Conor Counihan and Denis Walsh alike.

A little optimism for 2010, then, but in football or hurling? The county final has always been more than a game and a result; it’s always functioned as a thesis for debate. And there was plenty of that as the knots of people moved up the Monahan Road, drawing their coats around them as they strolled in the shadows beneath the trees.

The names may change, but those discussions never end.

Board gets back to brass tacks

AS PARLIAMENTARY gatherings go, last night’s county board meeting in Páirc Uí Chaoimh probably lacked a little in terms of drama and theatre.

No surprise there: as Barack Obama is finding out, you may campaign in poetry, but you have to govern in prose.

And last night’s meeting had a grim opening. Gerald McCarthy’s resignation as manager earlier this week was the elephant in the convention room, tootling a distracting tune on its trunk as delegates took their seats, ostensibly to hammer out the dates and venues for local championship encounters.

The soundtrack soon overcame the dialogue, however. True, a Taoiseach was appointed — or rather, a complete, brand-new Cabinet: the entire Cork U21 management team was delegated, en bloc, to handle the senior hurlers for the National Hurling League games against Clare and Limerick, but there was also plenty of anger expressed by speakers about the tribulations suffered by Gerald McCarthy in recent months.

After the vote on the short-term manager, there was a flurry of proposals regarding the composition of the committee which would appoint the long-term manager. Those proposals included committees with former players and with current players; with Pauric Duffy aboard or with the county chairman as a member; with club coaches participating or with club chairmen getting involved.

And finally, a proposal from the Newtownshandrum club which involved Jim O’Sullivan of this parish helping to select one of those committees.

At last, at last, at last: an organisation with the common sense to listen to us. What odds would you have got on that organisation being the Cork County Board?
THE number and variety of those proposals was far too unwieldy for last night’s meeting to process, so it was decided to hold another meeting on Monday night to hear what the clubs have to say about the proposals . . . I know. It’s hard to keep track of everything. After a while every second word is either ‘meeting’ or ‘proposal’.

Last night wasn’t an occasion for Cromwellian thunder, and the speakers wouldn’t have been confused with the likes of Burke or Grattan. They didn’t need to be.

After all, there was an odd mixture on the agenda which had to be addressed — the mundane, in that the championship fixtures are a hardy annual on the order of business, and the momentous, in that . . . well, you’ve probably been well briefed on that over the last few months.

For those who have been tracking those mass meetings in the last week around Cork — many of them large enough to keep Daniel O’Connell happy — there may be a little surprise this morning that the rule book wasn’t filleted like a kipper in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.

They shouldn’t be. Expressive as those meetings were of a thirst within the county for change, they can’t effect that change unilaterally. The
legislature is where those changes are made, not the hustings.

If you’re sick of the political metaphors, consider those last few get-togethers as more in the nature of warm-up performances for the big premiere: before the glossy musicals ever get to Broadway they’re given a run out of town first. Accordingly, procedural developments were thin on the ground last evening, as was constitutional reform, though a special convention would be a more appropriate forum for the reinvention of administration in Cork anyway.

This morning the announcement of John Considine and his colleagues as managers of the senior hurling team will dominate headlines. Little wonder.

Last night’s meeting moved on to the pleas for postponements of various championship games, which will generate plenty of discussion at local level: as chairman Jerry O’Sullivan pointed out, for instance, weddings are not a genuine cause for postponements. The games go on regardless.

True enough. They also go on despite separations.