A few clouds remain on horizon

THE beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Tonight’s meeting of the Cork County Board comes hot on the heels of the resignation of the county’s senior hurling manager and follows months of turmoil involving both senior panels.

In the last week alone there have been three well-attended meetings at which club officials have vented their frustration — at varying temperatures — with how the GAA is administered in Cork, while several thousand people marched in support of the 2008 hurlers on Sunday.

How then to parse Tuesday night’s meeting of the Cork Co Board, at which Gerald McCarthy’s resignation as hurling manager was announced?

By all accounts the meeting was not as stormy as the first Congress of Soviets back in 1917, though a similar level of fireworks had been expected beforehand, given the meetings of clubs last Friday in Clonakilty and in the Maryborough House Hotel on Sunday.

The board executive might have been bracing itself for a buffeting on Tuesday, but McCarthy’s sudden departure and his resignation statement had an impact on those present, and the firestorm of criticism centring on the board which had raged at last Friday’s meeting of club representatives in Clonakilty, in particular, was not repeated.

The executive of the Cork Co Board will take solace from that and point to their promise to take cognisance of various issues they admit they must deal with.

The disparity between votes at the recent club meetings and votes at county board meetings is a prime example, while the executive also undertook to improve communications with the clubs generally.

The specifics? They were agreeable to a forum similar to Tuesday’s being held on a regular basis, perhaps several times a year, to enable all clubs to voice their concerns.

As if that wasn’t enough, submerged in the reams of copy generated by Tuesday’s meeting was a throwaway line that would have seemed unthinkable to previous generations.

Cork County Board vice-chairman Bob Ryan said a committee was already in place to examine the role of full-time employees of the Cork Co Board, including secretary Frank Murphy.

“A sub-committee of the executive has been in place for a number of weeks in relation to staff employed by Páirc Uí Chaoimh,” said Ryan. “It is expected to report back as soon as possible. That committee consists of the chairman, the vice-chairman and the treasurer.”

The executive were also happy that they had done nothing wrong in appointing Gerald McCarthy as senior hurling manager, and chairman Jerry O’Sullivan said there was no ill-will towards any of the 2008 players from the executive.

With the dust beginning to settle on Gerald McCarthy’s departure, Tuesday night has the appearance of a new and rosy dawn.

Spot the cloud, then, drifting across the sun. Tuesday night’s meeting was powerless to implement change, so it’s hardly a surprise there was so little fire and brimstone from the floor. For those seeking reform of the board’s structures, there’s no point in wasting your ammunition in the phoney war.

In addition, McCarthy’s resignation as manager was always going to dominate the agenda. However, the manager’s position was only one of the two issues on which votes were taken on Sunday night.

The vote on county board reform — and specifically whether board delegates should revert to their clubs on serious issues — was passed with 187 votes in favour, none against, 48 abstentions and 23 deferrals.

That represents a serious mandate for reform, and anybody in Maryborough House last weekend would have recognised the thirst for change among the club officials.

That hasn’t dissipated. On Tuesday night there were calls from the floor for a special convention which would involve all clubs.

That wasn’t as widely reported as McCarthy’s statement and the executive could be forgiven for wanting to focus on holding a forum — with no powers to effect change — rather than a convention, which does.

That convention would be one of the most significant in the history of the GAA in Cork, and tonight’s meeting should offer firmer proof of the clubs’ desire for it to be held.

There are other pressing concerns for the board, such as setting fixtures — even in the midst of the dispute the GAA’s largest unit still needs to function — and the minor matter of starting the managerial appointment process.

Incidentally, after Tuesday’s meeting vice-chairman Bob Ryan said future managers would also have the opportunity given last month to Gerald McCarthy, to address board delegates.

“That’s democracy,” said Ryan. “Cork democracy.”

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