There are several things in life that one can take for granted. Kerry win football titles, Kilkenny win hurling titles, Cork win some of each but don’t win enough of either of them. One of the reasons for this may be detected in the current civil war between the players and the County Board which has resulted in the players refusing to play. There is no point in engaging in a minute analysis of who said what and when, not least because in general the public, me included have no interest in the detail. As a true rebel I’m only interested in having the team play at its best and to be in the shakedown for either or both titles come September.
Along the way, I’ll have spent my euros supporting the teams, I’ll have had my say in the car and bar on the composition of the team and I’ll have thrown myself wholeheartedly into the business of being a Cork man who cares passionately about the success or failure of his team. Now it strikes me that that description probably fits the players who play for the county at every level, the administrators at all levels and the backroom team of physios, kit men, groundsmen and so on, the vast majority of whom, like the players are amateur, unpaid and do it because they love it and want to make a difference. Want in short, to win things.
What we have here in Cork is a power struggle between the old guard, the torch bearers, who for the past 125 years have caused this extraordinary cultural, social and sporting organisation we know as the G.A.A., to become the world-renowned phenomenon that it is and the legions of players who for too long have been the currency used and discarded by the very thing they have helped create. In Cork there is a passion amongst the players and supporters to be the best and for the players to be the best prepared. In the past the tradition has been that the players are told what they will be allowed to have, what can be afforded; sometimes that’s been enough but more often the standards have fallen below what is expected and indeed what is the norm in other counties. So along the way maybe we’ve not won as many titles as we should have but sure we do alright don’t we? And there is the crux of the problem. To some, the players are getting uppity and need to be taken down a peg or two, to others, the more vocal players are eyed suspiciously as fifth columnists “the enemy within” who have all sorts of agendas including pay for play. I suspect the majority just want the dispute to go away without caring how, so that the teams get out on the field and we have something to look forward to come May when the days are longer and all positive results are still possible.
For me, it’s not about democracy or indeed the G.A.A.’s preferred weapon of choice, bureaucracy, it’s about cutting the players some slack and giving them a bigger say in how things get done for them. It’s the players who work their backsides off, the players who make the sacrifices, the players who take the abuse and yes the players who also get the glory. But imagine at the end of your career looking back at the sacrifice, the pain and the glory and imagine thinking that your true potential went unfulfilled because bureaucracy and rules and egos put obstacles in your way. Wouldn’t you, given the chance to do something about it, do it? I would.
Whatever ones opinion check there is no denying that when everything within the Cork GAA camp runs smoothly, the action in Pairc Ui Chaoimh grounds can be electrifying when an onsong Cork hurling or football team takes on the might of the other GAA giants.