Monday, November 10, 2008

When is a Cork Hurler Not a Cork Hurler?

As the Cork hurling nightmare drags painfully on An Spailpín Fánach can’t help but notice that there is an issue of nomenclature that is being overlooked in the dispute. An issue of nomenclature that, if resolved, could see a radical change of perspective and quick resolution of the dispute.

This is the issue: the group of thirty or so men who like issuing press releases to the Examiner newspaper are referred to in all media as “the Cork hurlers.” And this is plainly not the case.

The question of who hurls for Cork, or for any county, is at the discretion of the manager of that county team. Just because one has hurled for Cork in the past does not mean that one will do so again. In fact, because this is now the off-season, you could argue that there are no Cork hurlers as Cork aren’t actually hurling.

It’s very difficult not to think that Dónal Óg Cusack and his comrades are displaying a stunning level of arrogance in presuming some sort of automatic right to the jersey. If Tomás Mulcahy, John Fenton and Kevin Hennessey, for instance, issued a statement backing the current Cork County Board – who are just people who are passing through as well, of course – would the papers headline the statement as coming from “the Cork hurlers?” Don’t Mulcahy, Fenton and Hennessey deserve the title just as much as Cusack and his comrades? What have John Gardiner and co done on the field of honour that Tomás Mulcahy hasn’t?

The only issue, perhaps, maybe, would be that Dónal Óg still has a role to play in inter-county hurling. An Spailpín Fánach would question that assumption that also. These gentlemen’s inability see bigger pictures would make you wonder just how much a team game suits them.

It’s common in the media to defend Dónal Óg and his comrades by saying that they only want to play – Tom Humphries writes in Saturday’s Irish Times that it “isn’t about playing for Cork. It’s about winning for Cork.”

Up to a point, Lord Copper. All any team can do is play; whether they win or not depends on other factors, not least of whom are the other fellas, who may just fancy winning themselves. Playing a game is an end of itself – winning is an ancillary benefit. It is certainly not something that can be guaranteed.

But, just for pigiron, let’s give Dónal Óg and his comrades the benefit of the doubt. Here’s what Keith Duggan wrote in Sideline Cut on Saturday, where he may have summed up the whole dispute in an aside.

“For the Cork hurlers, it is simple. This group have always been about the very quality Kilkenny have been rightly lauded for - the pursuit of excellence. They believe there is no point playing at all unless the preparation and the attention to detail are second to none.”

No point in playing at all unless everything is just right. One of the common features of children who are spoilt is that they have no interest in playing unless everything is just to their satisfaction. The better brought up children will make the best of things as they are. The latter are more likely to enjoy it, and to enjoy greater benefits from it. Perhaps its not Kieran Mulvey whom is needed by the Cork hurlers but Ms Jo Frost, television’s Supernanny? Would a few hours on the naughty step cause certain parties to get over themselves and get with the program?

Six years since their first strike action, An Spailpín Fánach is still struggling to understand what exactly it is Dónal Óg and co want. After all, Cork have won over one hundred All-Ireland titles across all codes and age groups. Just how bad can the preparation be? How many would they win if they had been prepared correctly?

There’s a fierce amount that doesn’t add up in any of this and the Dónal Óg and his comrades are not being made accountable for their wild statements. For instance, John Gardiner was on Prime Time on Thursday night claiming that Frank Murphy wanted “absolute power.” Miriam O’Callaghan did not ask him to define the term “absolute,” which is pretty far ranging. Does Frank Murphy want the power of life and death, one of the rights enjoyed by the absolute monarchs of Europe before Napoleon and Age of Revolution? This is what we need to know. If Frank is bad that way, then certainly we should be told. But if he’s not, then maybe they shouldn’t say he is.

Miriam asked John Gardiner if it was about pay. Gardiner said “we have no interested in being paid at this time.” The last three words are interesting, aren’t they?

To An Spailpín’s mind, the solution is simple. Gerald McCarthy has only one option. It’s time to phone Eddie Hobbs and, if he’s still elegible, Gerald needs to tell Eddie to start doing laps; he’s going in top of the right on Sunday week for that challenge in Fermoy. Keith Duggan remarks that no-one wants to see a shadow team line out against Tipperary next summer. An Spailpín will sooner see that than see the Association torn asunder by the selfishness of a few who can’t seem to understand that they are only minding jerseys for someone else who’s coming along.

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