Listening to the Cork lads as the great inquest drags on, more melancholic by the day, you can’t help but feel a small bit sorry for them.
A small bit.
And you worry that they might be looking at this all wrong.
Even our own Kieran Shannon — who you couldn’t disagree with much — was giving the bum steer this week. “You can more than make up for lack of traditional Corkness by providing players with a high-performance environment.”
That is the big danger now; that they will focus on the tactics and the systems and the processes and the marginal gains and abandon the one thing they could always rely on for substantial gains, which was the Corkness.
In fairness, there are complicating factors. Notably, the football. At this difficult time, they are unfortunate that disappointment in the football has clouded the bigger picture, since disappointment in the football was often available to them at the best of times.
It’s debatable if it was ever Corkness that won it for them in the football. At times, it might even have been Kildareness, and since that has never been defined, there’s not much mileage down that road.
So they might be as well focus on the tactics and the systems and the processes and the marginal gains in the football, since these appear to be the only things beyond Kerryness that make any difference.
But the hurling crowd would be crazy to give up on the Corkness.
It can feel like forking soup, of course, the battle to rediscover a state of mind. But first things first, they will have to stop listening to the football crowd, especially the kind of complaining we have heard about Kerry and their plámásing and picardia and all the rest of it.
This portrayal of Cork as victims is an intrinsic element of Corkness, of course, but complaining about someone else’s cuteness should be anathema to them. It is a small blessing that the dual player policy was curtailed, to minimise any contagion.
But there is still much more salvage work to be done.
As I might have mentioned before, for many years I was unable to nail the essence of Corkness any tighter than the typical response of a Parnell Place bus driver in the days when the numbers of bus lanes were cleverly parked on the ground, obliging the buses to obscure them.
“Where’s this bus going?” you’d inquire, tentatively mounting the steps.
“Where you going?” the inevitable response.
An inability to produce a straight answer, natural suspicion, instinctive allergy to being put on the back foot and a compulsive need to be one step ahead of you; all essential to Corkness.
The same elusiveness I noted watching the likes of Tomas Mul and John Fitzgibbon and Tony O’Sullivan go about their business.
But in a recent chat about the 1990 double, which morphed into a chat about the Cork music scene of that time, RTÉ’s Colm O’Callaghan pointed out another crucial attribute of Corkness.
Colm noted that football and hurling — or bogball and stick-fighting, as the Hot Press crowd knew them — had become particularly unfashionable in Dublin then, but hurling, in particular, had arguably never been cooler in Cork city.
At the same time, the new Cork bands, the Sultans and the Franks — big hurling men themselves — were initially disregarded by the Dublin media.
As Colm put it: “The Cork attitude was; we don’t give a fuck what they think and, you know, leave them off.”
Leave Them Off. Three words essential to understanding Corkness. The Dubs might get everything, but they’ve nothing we want anyway.
Last Sunday, you could see it written all over JBM’s face — himself the acceptable face of Corkness — that he knew well he had presided this year over a significant setback to the Cork state of mind.
As the clamour grew for Jimmy to adjust, to bear in mind the new wave of sweepers and overlaps and jiggerypokery, everything in his being would have cried ‘leave them off’.
If a few nips and tucks had to be made, he’d surely have rathered it was done quietly. When Christy Ring dropped back to his own 50 to help them with puck-outs, Cork never made a film out of it.
But this year Cork adjusted and told us all about their adjustment and were still bate out the gate.
Aping Waterford’s system is a far cry from the dismissive posters the noughties champions posted in the Cork dressing room before clashes with the Déise.
Our World. Their World. But was that Corkness either, the brashness of that era? Or did the Corkness begin to evaporate while they tore themselves apart over the marginal gains?
There was certainly Corkness in the way those great players didn’t care what anyone thought of them. But that old Kerry credo — “walk aisy when the jug is full” — has generally been observed in Cork too.
A line from Brian Corcoran’s autobiography about Waterford and the Cork mindset still resonates. “They are playing for greatness within their own county but we are playing for greatness in the history of hurling.”
Greatness in your own county was once the starting point. And maybe the finishing line too. In another recent chat, 1990 hero John Considine swears he’d have died happy that summer when he pulled on a Cork shirt for the first time against Kerry.
But a man who counted his blessings and cherished his medal walked aisy enough that September.
“The people coming to the receptions had a collection of hurling and football medals. So it didn’t seem like a hugely brilliant achievement to win an All-Ireland.” That, too, was Corkness. It might be a good starting point now too.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
They will take no chances at this World Cup, the English eggers, with a 24-point plan on social media behaviour at the World Cup, including a prohibition on tweeting “when in a bad mood”. There is one remarkable omission, alas: No posting pics of your night out dwarf-throwing.
Nice take on Northern Ireland’s World Cup obstacle: “The last team you want in your group is Germany, the second-best team in the world.”
HELL IN A HANDCART
In fairness, they were very unlucky that in the event of a draw where both teams scored the same number of goals, they happened to have the same tally of points too.
On foot of his lecture on opponents buying the title, three cheers for those selfless volunteers Messrs Fabregas, Costa, Matic, Cuadrado, Luis, Willian et all, who helped out the biggest spending manager in football history to his last triumph.
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