Your columnist’s phone was pretty busy last week after this paper published the story of Cork GAA’s fluctuating deficit.
One day half a million, another day almost five times higher. God preserve us from another day like the latter.
Those calls were illuminating for all sorts of reasons, not least because the people I spoke to were former club officers within the county — neither of them actively involved any longer with their clubs, but with a considerable knowledge of and experience with GAA officialdom.
Both of them had moved past the stages of disbelief and outrage at the news which broke in these pages last week, though they echoed each other when pointing out that hard as it is to get people to act as board delegates now, it’s going to be a lot more difficult when those delegates aren’t given the full facts by a county executive.
One of them was particularly unhappy with the level of information coming out of last Wednesday night’s meeting of the Cork County Board executive, which produced the sum total of this for Cork GAA members: “The Executive Committee of Cork County Board met last night to discuss correspondence received from the Audit and Risk Sub-Committee. We look forward to meeting the sub-committee at the earliest opportunity.”
My phone pals were both cheerily cynical about the meeting itself, guessing that much of it was spent discussing how the correspondence from the sub-committee got into the public domain rather than the debt itself.
They added that they were unsurprised by the lack of detail when it came to one of the most astonishing elements of the correspondence — the sub-committee’s unhappiness with how its first report was circulated, or not, among members of the executive.
Both they and I were wondering about the ominous silence from Croke Park on the matter — in public, at least — and also the collateral damage to Cork’s standing nationally.
There have been suggestions other counties are very unhappy with the cost overrun on Páirc Uí Chaoimh insofar as that has a direct impact on their projects and plans: last week’s revelations in Cork have the potential to arm Croke Park further in reducing counties’ autonomy, and those counties are unlikely to forget who provided the ammunition.
I then had to make like Basil Fawlty mentioning the war and bring up a deeply uncomfortable subject for everyone — whether the Páirc overrun looming behind everything will result in a levy on clubs, despite the Executive consistently saying that this will not happen.
One of them pointed out that last week had undercut the Executive’s credibility but the other made an intriguing suggestion.
If a levy had to be imposed, he pointed out, it could be dressed up as a request that all clubs buy two €500 Premium tickets for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Such a move would generate funds while also giving clubs something tangible for their money — tickets they could in turn raffle for funds of their own, or rotate through the club — as opposed to watching €1000 sail off into the ether.
Both of them returned in different ways to one of the key indicators when it comes to county boards: the funding of the inter-county sides.
If either Ronan McCarthy or Kieran Kingston started to feel the pinch in terms of resources the heat would jump a level or two, said one; the other reminded me that one of the very early drivers of the strikes was a situation where players couldn’t get the football boots and runners they wanted.
Interesting times ahead.
Back to the past for this week’s recommendation.
Ever since Adam Driver massacred ‘Being Alive’ in Marriage Story, the Stephen Sondheim song seems to be having a mini-revival — check out the versions by Dean Jones or Jonathan Groff on YouTube for the real deal.
As a result of all of that, I had a look at Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954–1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes.
With a title like that how could anyone resist?
Sondheim is a genius, which is something you need hardly to be told.
What I did need to be told is that a casual conversation with Leonard Bernstein cost him a fortune: having completed West Side Story, Bernstein (who wrote the music) mentioned to Sondheim (who wrote the lyrics) that he’d sort out the songwriting royalties. Sondheim said that didn’t matter, relax, it was all about the work ...
And duly lost out on untold millions.
I note that both Arsenal and Liverpool have now encountered the real world and emerged with some bruises.
Mesut Ozil of Arsenal expressed his sympathy for his fellow Muslims in China and the response was swift from the Middle Kingdom — his image was removed from video games in China, for instance.
Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was questioned about Qatar’s record on human rights as his team participated in the World Club Cup finals in Doha; Klopp said: “I’m the wrong person to answer this question.” There are fascinating juxtapositions at play here.
Ozil appears a polarising figure (ie, often unpopular) among Arsenal fans yet here he’s suffering for his principles, and the club itself released a statement saying it ‘does not involve itself in politics’, which is hardly a display of shoulder-to-shoulder support.
Klopp seems a hugely beloved figure among Liverpool fans, themselves often seen as a close-knit group representing an area often neglected by the centre of British power.
Perhaps this is why Klopp’s apparent lack of commitment to a human-rights issue is so surprising (though in fairness it should be recorded that he also said: “Of course I have an opinion and believe everyone should be treated equally”).
More on this as it develops, because with the recent NBA-China controversy fresh in our minds, it’s surely an indication that more on this, generally speaking, is in our immediate future.
With Christmas so close at hand I would like to take this opportunity to wish a happy holiday season to all who alight on this page, whether accidentally or not.
(My favourite in this vein has to be the man who told me he never usually reads my column but the newspaper was open at my face in his local coffee shop so he said he’d take a chance. The martyr.)
I appreciate the feedback and the criticism alike.
I know you only supply the latter because you care deep down.