‘The litmus test for the future health of Cork football is simply how much change we are willing to accept.’
That particular sentence in ‘Section 7 – What Now?’ of the #2024 – A Five-Year Plan for Cork Football, is especially important.
It is a line that would have gone largely underappreciated from the document issued last Wednesday, but it is an imperative point.
Supporters of Cork football are at the stage where apathy towards the fortunes of the code in the county is the default setting.
When people were leaving Páirc Uí Chaoimh and O’Moore Park in Portlaoise last summer following the embarrassing losses to Kerry and Tyrone, fans were essentially shrugging their shoulders at the outcomes.
The general attitude was: ‘Should we really expect anything more than our lot there?’
A defeatist attitude has crept into the Cork football psyche and people have almost accepted it.
Now we have to accept that the County Board, who have been slammed for their perceived blasé approach to the code in the recent past in contrast to hurling, are showing a willingness to restore ‘Corkness’ to Leeside football.
And anybody that has given out about the County Board’s perceived said approach to the game has now got to fully support it in this next five years.
Genuine football personnel in Conor Counihan, Graham Canty and Brian Cuthbert, alongside County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy, have put in painstaking hours of time researching how best for Cork football to move forward and the public should rally behind their efforts.
With that in mind, I found the second focus area, entitled ‘Our People’, to be of particular interest.
It opens with: ‘It is imperative that the apathy described earlier in the (document’s) introduction is tackled head-on.
‘Our vision is founded on the realisation that our people are gasping for change.
‘Our stakeholders want their voices heard and listened to. Currently, they feel disconnected from our teams and from our administration.
‘Yet, despite this feeling of disconnection, Cork GAA is renowned for the levels of support it receives from its followers.
‘In order to receive such support in the future, we must reignite the passion of our people, integral to reigniting such passion is engagement with our people.
‘This engagement must be delivered with a new brief – developing Cork football as a live and vibrant brand.
‘This brand is paramount to promotion and is very much related to the delivery of many other elements outlined within this strategy.
The brand is the means to proclaim our tradition and uniqueness.
‘It is our opportunity to drive Cork football in a new direction and out of the shadows of competing codes within our county and country.
‘Our brand must develop within all of our stakeholders, the belief and desire that Cork can be great, that Cork can compete with the best.’
That reads well. And the innovative ideas that followed those sentiments, generally, made sense and were as fresh as required.
One particular element within the key strategies to achieve this reconnection was the suggestion that Cork GAA TV could be launched during the five-year plan.
This would be a welcome addition to the Cork GAA brand.
However, if the County Board want to utilise an initiative such as Cork GAA TV to reconnect with the people on the ground, it will work most effectively if, say, in interviews with current players, that the interviewees are not curtailed in delivering genuine content to the public.
What is meant there is that there is no point in Joe Bloggs pitching up in front of a camera to basically say ‘preparations for a game have gone well’ and that ‘we respect the opposition’.
Those throwaway, bland lines will not cut the mustard with educated supporters who will see through rubbish being spouted like that, people are already sick of listening to that kinda tripe, frankly.
What would work is if, in interviews, players talk to the people about their backgrounds, for example.
Of course, no player is going to give away really personal information. And nobody would expect them to. Yet, if players and management revealed a little more about what makes them tick as people, in terms of their football, and personal lives, then supporters will begin to engage with the playing group more.
These days, people want to see the person behind the player. And what it really means to represent the county.
Other sporting brands have gone down the route of driving their own channel. However, in these, we learn extremely little about the people spouting the usual lines about how ‘tough the challenge will be this weekend’.
Cork GAA TV should work exceptionally well if Cork GAA does not go down the same road as those that want to utilise their TV option as a propaganda machine.
Proper use of a powerful tool such as a TV platform would be to keep the content as real-life as possible without simply driving patronising lines from personnel encouraged to stay ‘on-message’.
Additionally, it was also encouraging to note that ‘players and management engage positively with media requests for interviews and appearances’ was another key strategy within this focus area.
Generally, access to players at pressers is good when it comes to Cork.
However, it would be a bonus for the public if they were to hear even more from the players away from dedicated press-days.
This document, however, will hopefully represent the spark which will revive football in Cork.