Cork GAA chairman Ger Lane’s honesty on a number of subjects at Sunday’s Convention was refreshing, writes Peter McNamara.
Anybody that has encountered Lane in GAA circles will appreciate he is a typically sound individual. He’s very much in the straight-up talker mould.
And his realistic mindset and attitude while reflecting on the performances of the clubs and inter-county teams from Leeside should benefit Cork in 2017 and beyond.
On one hand, people might view his comments as somebody merely relaying the obvious. After all, the results have spoken for themselves this year once again with a plethora of underwhelming showings from the Leeside representative outfits.
Yet, people should understand such forthright musings are not in plentiful supply in the GAA world presently.
Issues that need addressing tend to be watered down courtesy of the most mundane of quotes when speaking to players, managements and board officials.
However, Lane’s truisms raised eyebrows and Leeside hearts. Finally, a person in a position of substance spoke in real terms regarding the current plight of Cork GAA teams.
“2016 was not a good year for our inter-county teams,” Lane stated, adding, “our standards have fallen.”
If, as they say, the first step on the road to recovery is to admit you have a problem, then Lane certainly got the rehabilitation ball rolling at Nemo Rangers while discussing the season.
Are results likely to improve for Cork’s minor, U21 and senior groups in 2017? In total honesty, not really. Nevertheless, by the time the 2018 calendars are arriving in shops next Christmas the positions of those six teams could be much more stable.
The question is: Are people on the ground in possession of the patience the likes of Lane and senior hurling manager Kieran Kingston have asked for as they attempt to lead the turnaround in fortunes?
Nowadays, Cork GAA folk are sceptical of any pleas for patience. They have been listening to those calls for a number of years.
Regardless, there was a teak toughness in Lane’s tone that suggested he and the County Board mean serious business in trying to alleviate the woes of supporters.
In fairness, very few could question the County Board’s motives and aims for the foreseeable future based on Lane’s sentiments. They are obviously cognisant of the fact results have not added up at inter-county level for too long. His recognition of this alone will earn him credit with a number of sceptics.
However, aside from revealing his misgivings on Cork’s displays Lane’s acknowledgement of Leeside clubs’ shortcomings on the provincial stages was even more pleasing.
“Once again, our teams failed at provincial level in all competitions, except for junior hurling. This has to be of serious concern,” Lane said. “Why are our champions not good enough to win Munster titles? I don’t have the answer, but can we afford to sit back and hope it will improve? I don’t think so.
“We need to examine this in a structured way and the strategic review committee are presently doing that.
“We need to do this with a number of interested parties, including players, former players and administrators, and come forward with ideas.
“We need to up our intensity as it was glaringly obvious in the last few weeks that our teams are simply not good enough and were well below the required standard.”
Frankly, the output of Cork clubs in the Munster championships is shambolic, generally.
For instance, you have to go back to 2010 to find the last occasion a Cork club, in this case Nemo, won the AIB Munster Club SFC title.
And, worrying still, not since UCC in 1999 has a Cork club outside of Nemo won the same trophy.
In fact, just five clubs from Leeside have won the title in question since the first running of the Munster series in 1965 including Nemo, St Finbarr’s, UCC, Castlehaven and O’Donovan Rossa.
Nemo’s historical dominance of the Cork SFC may distort that figure, especially as they have gone on to capture the provincial crown 15 times.
All the same, Cork clubs’ record in the competition during the modern era remains a cause for concern.
Ditto the hurling equivalent with people blue in the face from lamenting the statistic that you have to go back to Newtownshandrum’s senior provincial title success in 2009 for the most recent Cork triumph.
The clubs should believe in their abilities to compete at provincial level, first and foremost.
Just look at how Mayfield have progressed, albeit in the junior grade.
And it was a pleasure to discuss, in detail, the development of the club with their chairman John Brennan for Monday’s County Champions supplement in the Irish Examiner.
Seamus Lawton’s junior hurlers are making an impact in their area and it is heartening to see.
I was intrigued by Brennan’s belief in giving youth a platform to profoundly impact an area socially.
“You must be reinvigorating as many aspects of the club as possible so as the youngsters coming through can feed off of the energy of the young adults guiding the ship.
“The thing I notice nowadays in society and it’s mimicked in our junior hurling and intermediate football groups, is that these people are all third-level educated.
“You look at our successful junior hurling side, you have Gardaí, army officers, accountants, teachers and software engineers among them.
“They’re bringing an awful lot of what I call ‘intelligent thinking’ to the club, forward-thinking individuals that our younger players can aspire to be, decent, progressive people. Successful people.
“After we won the city and county championships this year the players visited the schools and those were special occasions.
“Just the other day we were told that one of the nine-year-old lads from our academy was doing a school project on his hero and chose to focus on Nicky Kelly, our main scorer on this hurling team.
“Isn’t that, in itself, wonderful? In the past others might have picked Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. No, he chose Nicky.
“That’s the depth of impact Seamus Lawton’s group are having on the club overall,” Brennan said.