12 February 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
Zen and the art of hurling
THE hurling dispute in Cork was ratcheted up another notch or two last weekend. Three key events contributed to this and none of them did anything to lessen the palpable tension and even hatred that separates the two sides, there being no neutrals as far as I can make out.
The first event was an interview between Marianne Finucane and Cork manager Gerald McCarthy on RTÉ Radio on Saturday morning. McCarthy has been fairly active in putting his point of view across but this was his first opportunity to do so at leisure, at length and before the whole country, or that part of it which happened to be listening to the radio on Saturday morning.
Then, just as McCarthy was in the midst of putting his side of the story with regard to his training regime and the specific allegations that had been made against him by the players, Donal Óg Cusack appeared on air.
Now we had real drama as the two have not met since the dispute began and it is clear that there is quite a lot of animosity involved. Finucane (assuming she had not actually engineered the whole thing in the first place) must have been rubbing her hands together in delight.
She was able to put directly to Cusack the claims made by McCarthy, which were duly refuted and vice versa. What it boils down to clearly is that one of them is not telling the truth. But the sad thing about that is that they have dug in on what are presumably marginal issues such as what a particular trainer said, or what the role of a ‘facilitator’ (or whoever he was) was supposed to be.
Anyway, nothing came of the interview other than to illustrate how far apart the two sides are and the impossibility of either man ever working with the other again, or probably ever speaking to one another again.
THE second big event took place a few hours later when thousands of people marched in Cork city in support of Donal Óg and the striking players.
The general estimate seems to have placed the crowd at around 10,000, although others claim that this is an exaggeration, taking in the number of bystanders, and that there were maybe half of that on the actual march.
Whatever the case, it did illustrate that the 2008 panel have considerable support, even if those on the other side claim that most are not actually club members and that the real feelings of Cork GAA are represented by the votes which have gone consistently and overwhelmingly against the strikers. As an outsider, it is difficult to know where the truth lies.
THE final event of the weekend was on Sunday, when McCarthy’s selection played Dublin in the first round of Division One of the National Hurling League.
There were a good deal less people in Pairc Ui Caoimh than there had been at the protest but the passion was no less. Cork were greeted by a huge emotional roar when they appeared on the pitch and if ever you saw players growing within themselves it was those lads.
Dublin might as well not have been there and Anthony Daly described afterwards how they had been watching the protest on Saturday and wondering what was going on and that players were clearly unsettled by the whole affair. That, and the novelty of being 10 points up, showed on Sunday.
Dublin won easily enough in the end, despite their profligacy in front of the posts and taking their foot off the pedal for the start of the second half, but the result was almost peripheral. For supporters of McCarthy and the county board, the victory on Sunday was in having a team line out in the blood and bandages. Getting beaten by nine points, losing the two league points and more than likely it being only the first of a series of heavy defeats is less important than that.
For supporters of Donal Óg and the strikers the result will likewise be used to bolster their case. Some of those I spoke to in Cork said they hoped that Dublin would beat McCarthy’s team by 20 points as that would prove that it is not the Cork team, and thereby force McCarthy to step aside. Judging from what McCarthy and others have said since the match, however, there is no chance of that.
So this one will run and run with no solution in sight and with the potential for taking Cork entirely out of the hurling and football senior championship this year.
What it boils down to clearly is that one of them is not telling the truth
Prior to the match on Sunday, there was a minute’s silence for Jim Boggan, one of the legendary figures in Dublin hurling who died suddenly the day before. Jim was involved with the last Dublin minor team to win the All-Ireland in 1965 and for many years afterwards with county teams at all levels, including the seniors for much of the 1970s and early 1980s, not to mention his role in taking Crumlin to an All-Ireland club final in 1980!
He would have been pleased by Dublin’s victory over Cork but mindful of other years when the team started well, beating Cork and Galway, and drawing with the Cats only to come out and get beaten by Kildare in the first round of the Leinster championship. Being a small child at the time, the Dublin dressing room was better than a Zen monastery for learning about the illusions of the material world.
It is a pity that Jim will not be around to see the better days that are coming.
Ar dheis Dé ag a anam uasal.