By Jim O'Sullivan and Tony Leen
THE resignation of Cork's four hurling selectors is imminent, clearing the way for a completely new senior team management for next season.
Outgoing selectors, Pat McDonnell, P.J. Murphy and John Meyler may step down within 24 hours, while fourth selector, GAA secretary Frank Murphy is expected to decide not to go forward either for another season.
No official confirmation was forthcoming yesterday, but the understanding is that the four are prepared to step aside in the interest of facilitating a speedy resolution to the impasse between players and board executive.
Back-channel communications have been continuing between members of the executive and the striking hurlers, a players' statement last night confirmed. It is understood that some progress has been made on one or two issues, but the players stress that the problems are about more than the selectors. The players have also stated that they see no function for a mediator, either from Cork or elsewhere.
In the meantime, club delegates will tonight (8pm) be given a full and frank disclosure of the matters discussed between the 12-man executive and the player representatives over the course of two lengthy meetings. Board members were merely informed that the talks were on-going This was done to honour a confidentiality agreement with the players.
In his report to Sunday's annual convention, Frank Murphy points this out. The report was obviously prepared in advance of last Friday's press conference at which the players made the dramatic announcement they were withdrawing their services forthwith. The county secretary makes just a few brief references to the player issue, recalling the protest action by a number of them before the National League final against Kilkenny - when they walked in the parade with their stockings down and their jerseys outside their shorts. "The team management dealt with the League final protest in a conciliatory manner and the team prepared well for its championship engagements,'' he says. "The participation of some players in the pre-match GPA protest took from the concentration necessary, whereas Kilkenny, with the exception of one player, did not engage in this protest. Mr Murphy also spoke of the unfair treatment of the team management a few weeks later, in comments by some players. He expressed his sadness that coach Bertie Óg Murphy should have considered it necessary to resign in such circumstances: "As confidentiality has been agreed in relation to discussions between the Board Executive and players at the time of writing, I may not comment on them, other than expressing the hope that they can be speedily and satisfactorily concluded and that all can go forward with enthusiasm to advancing the cause of Cork hurling in 2003.''
At official level, within the Cork executive, there is disappointment the players took the stand they did, because, from their perspective, progress was being made. "It is wrong to suggest that we will dig in our heels. There is genuine goodwill within the executive to solve the matter and as speedily as possible,'' a spokesman pointed out. "We have made contact with the players since Friday, but all that can be said at this stage is that we will outline our position to the Board and then go back to the players to try and advance it. With the best of goodwill on both sides there is no reason why it can't be solved.'' While Croke Park officials are refraining from passing any comment on the controversy, it's obvious that they will be hoping for a speedy resolution. Any foot-dragging - or worse still, a total breakdown in discussions - could have repercussions not merely for the county's participation in the National Hurling League, but for the organisation of the competition itself.