For those outside the county who are pondering, or gloating, about the county’s decline, the difference in attitude to the two teams may tell you something (though one curious aspect of Cork’s recent decline seems to be the amazing insight enjoyed by many people who don’t live next or near the place).
The Cork footballers made a game of it in Croke Park on Saturday night, leading Dublin comfortably at half-time and remaining in contention until the closing stages, though they had a second half scoring drought which lasted nearly half an hour.
It was a huge improvement on their performance against Roscommon the previous week, and while I don’t wish to reopen old wounds, it seems striking to this observer that there was a resounding silence from the western regions of county Cork, in particular, about that heavy loss.
While there may be some uncertainty as to whether it was Cork’s heaviest-ever defeat in league or championship, its precise ranking in the pantheon of hammerings is beside the point.
Conceding 4-25 to a Roscommon team which is not — with all due respect — expected to contend for All-Ireland honours was a low point for a team with an All-Ireland title just six years in its past.
Yet last year, when results under Brian Cuthbert were noticeably better, there was what one might almost call a concerted effort in the wilder reaches of online discussions and in certain sections of the media to denigrate the Bishopstown clubman’s credentials and performances.
In these analyses the draw against Kerry in the Munster football final was seen as an exception rather than the rule, and defeat against Kildare in the qualifiers marked the end of Cuthbert’s reign.
However there seems to be no appetite among those who were most vocal about last year’s displays to apply the same level of criticism to the current football team and management, despite the fact that Cork were obliterated at home by a side just promoted from Division 2 rather than drawing with the then All-Ireland champions.
One might almost think that Cuthbert’s major sin was neither his tactical approach nor his lack of playing experience at intercounty level, but being from the wrong part of the county and therefore unacceptable to his critics.
The Cork hurlers, on the other hand, were destroyed on Saturday evening by Dublin, and there was an eerie similarity between the score they conceded — 4-21 — and that leaked by the footballers the previous weekend — 4-25.
Manager Kieran Kingston has been at pains to stress the necessity for Cork supporters to be realistic, though Saturday might have offered too much realism for those on Leeside.
In the wider context Cork are seen as soft and inconsistent, and each recent high point (making the 2013 All-Ireland final, winning the 2014 Munster final/reaching last year’s league final) comes with a caveat that’s difficult to argue against (a weak season, a subsequent collapse, and a heavy defeat).
For all that Cork supporters will travel to support their hurlers with more confidence than their footballers this summer. Perhaps the sense that Kingston won’t be treated within the county the way Cuthbert was explains that.
Sneem’s tribute to legendary John Egan
Word reaches us of a move to honour one of the true greats of football, the late John Egan of Kerry and Sneem. The powerful forward was one of the most feared attackers of his day, and it says something his reputation held its own among those of the other attackers on the most celebrated GAA team of all time.
He scored vital goals in All-Ireland finals when they were needed, and in doing so became one of the most appreciated under-appreciated players, though that was just among the public.
His opponents were always wary of the damage Egan could do and they usually spent games in his company in a state of semi-alarm.
Now it appears Sneem GAA and others — not all of them in Kerry — have decided to mark his impact on the game, and on his home place, with a permanent physical reminder of Egan’s ability.
We’ll be coming back to deal with this in further detail in the coming weeks.
It’s size of the ape on the dog
I plan on talking to a man in the next couple of days about a book he’s written. How could you resist the title ‘Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports’?
Ed Brooke-Hitchings’s brainwave was to look into the now-extinct sports that entertained our predecessors, but when we speak I’m afraid I’ll have to raise the minor matter of my nightmares with him.
See, I was vaguely aware of who Jacco Maccacco was before I opened the book. I also had a hazy notion that there was a vogue for pitting apes against dogs in the Britain of the 18th century, and Ed’s book confirms Jacco’s pre-eminence: the fighting ape which could despatch ten fighting dogs in a single night.
However, also thanks to Ed’s book, I am now fully familiar with Jacco’s particular method of attack — jumping on a dog’s back in order to tear out its windpipe. With his teeth.
And also with the unforgettably horrific image of Jacco, covered in blood, standing upright on the back of a slaughtered dog, leering evilly at the spectators ranged round. A canine windpipe dangling from his reddened teeth, no doubt.
Bearing in mind the old joke about the smaller the monkey, the more it looks like it’d kill you at the first opportunity, I can’t say I slept too easily the last couple of nights...
From radio days to fisticuffs via laptop
Conor McGregor fought on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I raise this because McGregor has now lodged himself in the national consciousness to such an extent that such events are now routinely recorded.
There’s an odd echo in McGregor’s post-midnight defeat and the old days of broadcasts of big boxing bouts, voices like Barrington Dalby and Raymond Glendenning bringing those fights to life via the BBC to Irish listeners, huddling around wireless sets in dark kitchens.
Now the events are beamed live to your TV, to your laptop — to your watch. All change: in the delivery, and in the events themselves.