We were in the bowels of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday as word started seeping through from Limerick, where the Cork footballers were beginning their game with Mayo, one which eventually went to extra time, writes Michael Moynihan.
By the time this writer got home the game had finished with Mayo one ahead, and soon afterwards more news seeped through: Cork manager Peadar Healy had stepped down at the Gaelic Grounds.
In another county a showing like that against Mayo would have been the foundation stone for 2018, maybe, not a pink slip.
But Cork football has not been a rational operation for a long time, perhaps not ever.
First principles. Everything that happens in Cork football is coloured, of course, by the county’s hurlers and the success they’ve enjoyed traditionally on Leeside.
This year is a case in point: If you went back to springtime the rational position would be that a team with current All-Ireland medal-winners in its ranks would surely attract a bigger following — and a more loyal following — than a team which had lost to another county the previous season for the first time in over half a century.
Far from it. There were probably more Cork GAA people in Páirc Uí Chaoimh running the rule over potential All-Ireland semi-final opponents for Kieran Kingston’s team than there were in Limerick for an actual Cork team.
Because of the success of an unfancied Cork hurling side there’s quite the interest now in talking about Corkness, as though that’s some mysterious strand of DNA made up of an adhesive first touch, nervelessness, and looking well in red and white.
It’s an attractive conceit bolstered by the displays of a team of youngsters playing an attractive brand of hurling, but it doesn’t exist.
Even if it did, the Cork footballers have never been a comfortable inclusion in that old Venn diagram of Christy Ring, Roy Keane, Sonia O’Sullivan, and Ronan O’Gara.
Too flaky and undependable? Guilty of the same original sin, or sins?
Too much of a Nemo influence. Too little. Too many West Cork players. Too few.
Too many backs picked as forwards. Too many players retained past their sell-by. Too near to Kerry.
The football traits have a constancy. Over the decades the dissipation of talent — unfulfilled, mishandled, lost to the hurlers, all of those at once — perpetrated by successive iterations of the Cork senior footballers has been extraordinary. The swathes of underage talent on which other counties would have founded dynasty after dynasty... maybe that’s the hallmark of their particular Corkness. Squandermania.
It’s reinforced rather than undermined by the record books. Cork have over twice as many senior football titles as both Mayo and Tyrone. As many as Tyrone, Armagh, Donegal, and Derry put together. Fourth, in fact, in the all-time winners list.
Granted, you can squeeze the statistics to fit any picture, but the obvious point is that none of the counties mentioned above — great GAA bastions, supposedly — make a serious commitment to both major Gaelic games. Cork do.
Perhaps that’s part of the Corkness, too. Being competitive with one hand tied behind your back.
Or, as mentioned earlier, does it all just come back to the hurlers?
Women still trying to make their mark
Terrific viewing the other night — not just U2 Agus An Arc, which gave any of us who remember the chunky jumper and Doc Marten’s as the only, never mind the essential, items of fashion permissible in ’80s Cork.
I refer also to Clare Balding’s intriguing documentary about women’s soccer in England and in particular how it was quashed by the FA. What was particularly interesting was the class element.
One of the major marks against the women’s game was the establishment’s disapproval of women playing soccer in fundraising games for miners in the north of England during the febrile 1920s. The usual farrago of nonsense was spouted by GPs about the physical risks the game posed for women, not to mention its inherent unsuitability for young ladies.
The killer detail was the one that holds true even today: As soon as sportspeople get involved in politics, then all bets are off.
Phelps and the great white hype
I really should be paying more attention to that corner of the interweb which specialises in the offbeat, because I only realised over the weekend that the rumour is true.
Michael Phelps is going to race a Great White Shark.
This is the kind of competition that would have energised my eight-year-old self beyond sleep, food, and conscious thought, given that mine was the generation that went unthinking to the cinema one summer to see a film and ended up with a life-long terror of the ocean, thanks to Messrs Spielberg, Dreyfus, Shaw, and Scheider.
Yet now it seems that this is going to happen, and during the period of time regarded by US television executives as the only sure thing after death and taxes: Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.
Details are sketchy, because the only fact about this that is amenable to the human brain is the prospect of Michael Phelps being in the water with a Great White Shark. Having a race.
To that end I was disappointed to stumble across this from Vanity Fair magazine: “Phelps made it clear that he and the shark were not in the water at the same time.”
What did I say about the distraction of detail? More on this as it emerges, like, like, like . . . a sinister dorsal fin breaking the surface on a choppy evening sea.
I’ll stop now.
The ‘filet’ of the field
Revisited The Squid And The Whale the other evening — some performance by Jeff Daniels as the central figure, whose every step and comment gives you ire.
Towards the end Daniels’ character dismisses Elmore Leonard with a breezy “pulp”, but acknowledges it’s classy pulp: In his terminology, it’s the “filet” of the field.
I don’t keep abreast of all the heavyweights in that field, particularly since Leonard passed away a couple of years ago, but having begun The Force by Don Winslow, it’d take a good one to take the crown away from this tale of the NYPD.
I’m not the only one who thinks so, obviously — David Mamet is adapting the book for movie director James Mangold, though hopefully the former will omit his hallmark repetitions (I said hallmark repetitions. Hallmark repetitions. Did you hear me?) The ‘filet’ of the new crime writing? Hard to see past it, certainly.
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