Cunningham in the frame

GER CUNNINGHAM is an early favourite to replace Gerald McCarthy as Cork hurling manager.

Cunningham was an All-Ireland-winning selector with former Cork manager John Allen in 2005, and there was widespread surprise on Leeside when he was not considered as a replacement when Allen stepped down after Cork’s three-in-a-row bid was stopped by Kilkenny in 2006.

Other possibilities include Allen himself, another of Allen’s former Cork selectors, Patsy Morrissey of Newtownshandrum, former Cork U-21 manager John Considine, recent Fitzgibbon Cup-winning coach Paul O’Connor or a combination of some or all of them.

Cork’s All-Ireland winning captain of 1999, Mark Landers, 1990 All-Ireland captain Tomas Mulcahy and former Cork intermediate manager Sean O’Brien are also likely to be mentioned.

A role for former All-Ireland winning coach Donal O’Grady, and former Cork star Brian Corcoran cannot be ruled out either.

The critical role of physical trainer will also be the focus of much attention. Gerald McCarthy appointed former Kerry footballer Aodhan MacGearailt as trainer, but Sean McGrath and Jerry Wallis — who trained Cork from 2003 to 2006 inclusive — have continued to train the 2008 panel at the sessions they have held at Mallow, Mourneabbey and Na Piarsaigh, and it is understood that the players are keen to have the duo stay on.

The process used to select the new manager itself will also come under scrutiny, as the manner of Gerald McCarthy’s reappointment last October was the catalyst for the dispute in the first place.

One of the suggestions made at last Sunday night’s meeting of club officials in the Maryborough House Hotel was that a new appointments committee be set up consisting of two players, two members of the board and two representatives of intermediate or senior clubs, with an independent chairperson.

Meanwhile, the board’s executive faced further opposition from the floor at last night’s information/consultative meeting in the Rochestown Park Hotel, which began with board chairman Jerry O’Sullivan reading Gerald McCarthy’s lengthy resignation statement to the assembly.

Club representatives present described the executive (represented by chairman O’Sullivan, vice-chairman Bob Ryan, treasurer Pierce Murphy and secretary Frank Murphy) as more conciliatory than at recent board meetings, with the executive saying they were prepared to listen to the clubs, and proposed setting up a consultative forum and committees to improve communications between the board and clubs in the county.

However, they also defended their appointment of McCarthy strongly, insisting that they had adhered to the rules in doing so, using slides to illustrate the timeline of meetings involved.

The executive also referred again to Rule 59, which deals with the ‘powers’ of county committees — which are ‘the governing and controlling body of all the affairs of the association with the county’.

They faced questioning from club members on board spending, however, and as the executive defended the appointment of McCarthy, one speaker claimed the appointment was payback for the players’ strike of 2002, and that the executive knew that the players had no confidence in McCarthy.

When the executive said they would appoint a new manager as soon as possible, another speaker said he had no confidence in them doing so, commenting that he expected to be in the same situation in 12 months’ time.

The issue of a special convention to discuss the dispute did not arise. When the meeting broke up the executive then met with county board delegates separately.

Tomorrow night a full county board meeting takes place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

That meeting was originally called to deal with local championship fixtures, though clubs at Sunday’s meeting discussed the possibility of withdrawing from those competitions.