Larry Ryan: Freeing Cork from clutches of the spare hand

Larry Ryan: Freeing Cork from clutches of the spare hand

THE ban on talking sport in the office can’t reach Cork soon enough.

The head of the UK Chartered Management Institute this week figured that a cull on watercooler discussion of ‘the match’ would help dismantle the patriarchy, or something along those lines.

But all office politics is local. And in these parts, at least we’d hear no more about The Spare Hand.

There is one gentleman in this office, devout in his allegiance to Cork hurling, who will not be happy until the weekly subject of this, and every other, column in the paper is The Spare Hand.

“You have your soapbox,” he will say, often administering a headlock, “when, when, will you tackle The Spare Hand?”

Should a hurling match be on the television, the poor man is denied any pleasure in it, unable to relish the most audacious feat of skill. Because all he sees is The Spare Hand.

For non-students of the game, The Spare Hand is the one unencumbered by the purer business of carrying a hurley. And as we know, the devil makes work for idle hands.

“Will you look at that shit,” our man will cry out, forlornly, whenever a player is baulked by an opponent’s Spare Hand.

Ah, it is sad to see a largely contented people driven demented in this fashion.

Mark Landers was nearly as agitated when he came in during the week for Dalo’s podcast. Cork’s All-Ireland winning captain took to vigorous acts of mime — slightly lost on a podcast audience — as he itemised the offences of this sinister limb, which he prefers to rebrand The Free Arm.

“It’s actually infuriating. Your hands are being dragged left, right and centre. Just as you’re trying to strike the ball you get a little bit of a tug with The Free Arm…”

It was Dónal Óg Cusack who started it, I suppose, a good while back, when he wrote the Sorrowful Litany of Spare Hand Sins.

“The spare hand is used for pinning one of your opponents’ arms down by his side. The spare hand is used for pulling your opponent down on top of you to make it look as though you have been pushed from behind. The spare hand is used to interfere with his hurley. The spare hand is for getting a grip of his waistband or jersey so he doesn’t move. The spare hand is for grabbing the face guard. The spare hand is for stopping the player so your team-mates can swarm around him and force a turnover with their spare hands.”

Pray for us.

Dónal Óg recited an abridged version on last week’s League Sunday on RTÉ. Much to the annoyance of Jackie Tyrrell beside him, who threw out a broken record jibe, and portrayed the tender attentions of The Spare Hand as no more than a gesture of affection. “If I put my hand on your arm, is that a free?”

Larry Ryan: Freeing Cork from clutches of the spare hand

Dalo, despite being molested by Landers’ Free Arm in studio, was as sanguine as Jackie, seeing no great harm in putting a hand across a forward’s chest to “halt his momentum”.

So on this matter we seem to find opinions breaking down either side of a familiar border.

Cork. Not Cork.

Donal O’Grady is another of the fine Rebel hurling minds perturbed by the issue and has, on the odd occasion when we are reinforcing the patriarchy in the Examiner kitchen, picked up a mop to illustrate the personal violations available to his Spare Hand.

They will dress it up as a purist’s charter, this revulsion on Leeside for the rooting and tearing of The Spare Hand.

What will become of the small skilful hurler, bemoaned Landers, in an emotional plea reminiscent of Eamon Dunphy’s preservation orders on the little guy on the street.

Though, funnily enough, our vocal office objector has no issue at all with natural justice being applied via a traditional ‘dawk’.

Some would say all they want is the rules that are there to be enforced. But as we well know, enforcing all the rules all of the time in Gaelic games would not be entirely practical, unless you wanted a free every 10 seconds.

Dalo's Hurling Show: Cork's old failings, Déise reborn, danger of 14 Cats, Limerick in Tipp heads?

Of course, it is not hard to trace at least some Cork dissatisfaction back to The Long Grass Final of 2006 when, they’ll claim, Kilkenny countered the running game via some diligent Spare Hand stewarding.

The bigger question is what it has done to the Cork psyche. Have their hurlers adjusted properly to these terms of engagement? And could this have something to do with the small delay in clocking up the 31st All-Ireland?

As we subjugated women by discussing the Allianz League defeat by Waterford, it was evident that many of the faithful remain unhappy with the, how would you put it, application of the Cork hurlers.

But sure how could it be right, when all around them is distaste for the kind of physicality they are being asked to bring to the table?

Until the CMI’s ban is in place, imagine the grousing about The Spare Hand these lads are exposed to in their places of work or study. How could their hearts be entirely in it?

So what can be done to resolve this small psychological issue in time for nature to take its course, and the commemorative double to be secured this year?

Cork might well have to go the way of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian who fought an ideological battle against streaming music services until the day he endorsed Spotify with the warning, “if you don’t adapt, then you don’t survive”.

Failing that, I suppose the proposed hurling black card might curtail the worst excesses of the devil’s hand.

Incidentally, there’s some fellow called Frank Murphy on that committee.

Imaginary boost to Tipp’s title prospects

Great Tipperary centre-back Tony Wall had another solution to the rooting and tearing of The Spare Hand: reduce the steps allowed to three or maybe even less to encourage lads to release the ball before they can be interfered with. But then that mightn’t suit them either, in Cork.

Tipp land in the Páirc tonight in a better frame of mind than the hosts, buoyed further by last week’s defeat to Limerick.

This might well prove a pivotal result in Tipp’s modern hurling history, in so far as it cemented, in the minds of many, Limerick’s status as 2019’s imaginary All-Ireland champions, rightful winners of the imaginary final with Tipp that was denied by an umpire.

This is a new experience for an All-Ireland winning Tipp team, at least across recent decades, that nobody is now predicting a period of ~dominance.

If Cork don’t get their minds right to lift the double, could it finally prove the key to the elusive back-to-back?

After all, in this imaginary landscape, all Tipp need is another one in a row.

Heroes & villains


Billy Holland and Lanlih Keane: Donate to their fund for very sick children in Ireland at, with proceeds going to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, CUH children’s wards, and Ronald McDonald House.


The boys club: What could the money thrown stupidly around on Transfer Deadline Day do for the women’s game? The Daily Mail’s expose into pitiful wages and poor conditions at many Women’s Super League sides doesn’t say much for their Premier League parent clubs who can afford to do much better.

BBC News: Showing footage of LeBron James during a report on the death of Kobe Bryant. Ah lads.

Morris Berger: The Michigan college football coach who said he’d like to have dinner with Hitler due to his “leadership skills”.

“I mishandled the answer, and fell way short of the mark,” said Berger, after he was sacked.

Man United’s ‘ultras’: Poor carry-on.

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