MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: A deepening crisis on Leeside

When the playwright Tom Murphy wrote A Crucial Week In The Life Of A Grocer’s Assistant, he might have been a bit previous in choosing his subject.

Last night, members of the executive of the Cork County Board held an unscheduled meeting.

An outsider might be impressed with the urgency being shown a few days after the departure of one of the county’s senior team managers, but far more significant for the gathering was the crisis on the administrative side on Leeside this week.

Both county senior teams exited the championship in equally disappointing fashion for Rebel supporters last weekend, to start a traumatic few days for Cork GAA. Start with Saturday, when the county footballers lost, surprisingly, to a relatively unfancied Kildare side. Manager Brian Cuthbert, the subject of savage criticism all year, not least from factions in his own county, immediately became the focus of speculation about his future.

Cork supporters had barely digested that loss when their hurlers slumped to a 12-point defeat at the hands of Galway last Sunday afternoon.

Hurling boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s post-game comments included an enigmatic reference to looking forward to next year, and his future plans remain a mystery.

When those Cork fans sat down to watch The Sunday Game that night former Cork keeper Dónal Óg Cusack, unsurprisingly, had harsh words for the Cork County Board on the programme, making his now-infamous “stooges and yes-men” comment and indicting administrators for the county’s lack of success at underage level.

The usual cliche is that the reaction from his targets was immediate, but not in this case. There was no statement issued on behalf of the county board in the 48 hours after the programme was aired.

The protocol in county boards around the country is that statements outlining the official position of the organisation in relation to specific issues must be signed off by the county chairman, and in Cork’s case this week that could not be done.

However,vice-chair of the county board, Tracey Kennedy, retweeted an online report detailing Cusack’s Sunday Game comments from her personal Twitter account. Though the usual caveat with personal twitter accounts is that retweeting others’ views or opinions does not constitute an endorsement of those views or opinions, other members of the executive were unhappy that her retweet could be interpreted as the only public intervention from the board on Cusack’s remarks.

By contrast, Croke Park responded swiftly to Sunday night’s broadcast.

It is understood high-ranking officials from GAA HQ contacted RTÉ early this week to outline their unhappiness with the comments made on the channel’s flagship sports programme, and management within the national broadcaster are looking into the matter. On Wednesday this newspaper broke the news of Brian Cuthbert’s resignation as Cork football manager. Later in the day the Cork GAA website carried a brief statement from the Bishopstown man on his departure and a short statement of thanks from county chairman Ger Lane.

On Thursday there were more events at boardroom level, when one of the elected members of the executive offered to resign but was asked to reconsider. He duly agreed to a meeting to discuss same last evening.

Later on Thursday evening, however, a different member of the executive confirmed the resignation to a reporter and seemed unaware of the discussion planned for Friday.

Last night, then, members of the executive met to discuss these and other matters. The replacement of Cuthbert should be top of the agenda but the missteps in communication were also aired.

That offstage turmoil on Leeside was obscured somewhat by the midweek furore about the coin toss proposed to separate Dublin and Clare in the camogie championship, while the build-up to the All-Ireland football championship games this weekend is now dominating the news cycle.

However, the week’s events will no doubt be noted by candidates considering the football manager post and are likely to be a factor when the post is finally offered to the board’s choice. After all, if the executive can’t present an official rebuttal of criticism of their own performance, then how much support is a manager going to get when pundits get the knives out?

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