Friday, June 22, 2007

Hurling's Culture Clash

We have seen two sides of the modern hurling world this week. One of them reflects the game in all its honour, pride and glory, dating back to the time of the Tuatha de Danann, if not before. The other does not.

This morning the Irish Examiner publishes a statement from three Cork hurlers, Dónal Óg Cusack, Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, apologising for their parts in the fracas against Clare and having a good cut at their detractors while they're at it.

The reporter, Michael Moynihan, told the nation on Morning Ireland this morning that the apology was the big thing, but of course it's not. A qualified apology is not an apology at all. The big thing is three players' response to the controversy that has ensued, and they see the blame for the controversy as being down to three factors.

1. Anti-Cork media bias.
2. Anti-GPA media bias.
3. Anti Frank Murphy (secretary of the Cork County Board) media bias.

Let's look at it one by one. Anti-Cork media bias. Ger Canning, RTÉ's number one GAA commentator, is from Cork. Seán Moran, GAA correspondent of the Irish Times, is from Cork. Denis Walsh of the Sunday Times, and writer of the marvellous Hurling: The Revolution Years, is from Cork. I'm pretty damn sure that nobody in the Examiner has any anti-Cork bias. That dog won't hunt.

Anti-GPA media bias is harder to quantify. Your faithful correspondent would contend that if the media were to stop giving the GPA as much time as they get, Dessie and boys would be run out of town on a rail as befits them, but that's just An Spailpín's opinion. The GPA gets plenty of positive press, more than they deserve. They ought to dry their eyes at that one.

It's the anti-Frank Murphy crack that has got An Spailpín talking about hurling, to be, pardon me, frank about the matter. Normally, not being from a hurling power, I take Bob's advice and don't criticise what I can't understand. But the vision of Dónal Óg, Diarmuid and Seán Óg with their eyes brimming with tears at the very thought of seeing Frank Murphy getting a belt of the Fourth Estate's crozier has An Spailpín on his heels. And the reason is this - no-one outside Cork GAA circles knew Frank Murphy from Frank Sinatra until this same bunch of whiny Cork hurlers went on strike a few years, telling the nation what an utter bollix Frank Murphy was. You can read Denis Walsh's book, mentioned above, if you don't believe me. And then they turn around years later and say hey! What are you doing picking on Frank? Pull the other one lads.

And from what seems like across the universe, we had that marvellous photo in the Independent during the week, currently adorning this very blog entry, of Richie Bennis and Babs Keating with their arms around each other after that epic replay between Limerick and Tipperary. It shows everything that's great about the GAA, especially the respect for opposition and respect for the game above all that has made the Association great over the years. You can say what you like about Babs Keating, and he has more than one detractor, but you can't deny that the only thing that might equal Babs' love of hurling is his love of the Premier County. As for Richie Bennis, no-one every took up managing the Limerick hurlers because it's easy work and good crack.

Without men like Bennis and Keating the GAA would be lost long ago. I hope that the three Cork hurlers have time to think about those two men, and the thousands of their ilk, flowers born to blush unseen, but without whom the GAA would long ago have been lost, and wonder what their values really are. Enjoy the game on Sunday everybody.

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