Cork GAA: Frank Murphy, County Board, JBM, Cuthbert and the blame-game

The ‘devastation’ knows no bounds, it seems.

Cork GAA: Frank Murphy, County Board, JBM, Cuthbert and the blame-game

By Peter McNamara

The ‘devastation’ knows no bounds, it seems.

The collateral damage is extensive.

Message boards, radio phone-ins, Facebook and Twitter are bubbling over with the anger and frustrations of supporters.

Some at least attempt to make sense, be constructive, others talk utter garbage.

Yet, any people that paid for tickets to games in Fitzgerald Stadium and Semple Stadium in the last few weeks and strolled through those turnstiles deserve their voices to be heard.

Individuals point the finger of blame at the County Board’s door, and specifically Frank Murphy’s office.

Are their grievances valid? Yeah, they probably are, to a point.

After all, Murphy and those around him are, at the end of the day, at the summit of Cork GAA operations.

Therefore, they simply cannot be exempt from criticism, primarily because it took those in power far too long before implementing Development Squad structures, for instance.

However, to lay the blame solely on the shoulders of those in the higher reaches of the County Board is to not see the bigger picture.

More pertinently, with the likes of Ger Lane and Tracey Kennedy operating as integral components of the board there is no doubt the medium- to long-term future is genuinely in safe hands.

But it takes time to change the mind-sets and perceptions of people looking from the outside in and maybe from the inside in too.

People in Cork just see Murphy as a ‘dictator’ surrounded by henchmen, or, as Donal Óg referred to them on The Sunday Game, ‘stooges’.

To a lot of the public, not just on Leeside but across the country, Murphy says ‘Jump’ and the rest, those in his inner circle say, ‘How high?’

Maybe there is an element of truth in that thought-process.

It has to be remembered though those people are from a totally different generation.

They grew up and conducted their business throughout the years in a totally different GAA world to the one we live in now.

Even from my own perspective the Association and the evolution of everything about it has been relentless in the past 10 to 15 years.

We, as a county, all stakeholders, got caught on the hop revelling in the affluence of the noughties where trips to Croker were more commonplace than Dermot Weld-trained winners at Ballybrit!

Murphy and co are the oldest of the old skoolers. Yet, that does not mean the best interests of Cork GAA aren’t to the forefront of their agendas. In fact, if anything they have an entrenched grá for Cork GAA.

It is simply a case that their methods need oiling but that is where the likes of Lane, Kennedy and even Bob Ryan come into play, people with fresher outlooks and a greater appreciation of the ways forward in 2015 and beyond.

And, to be absolutely fair to them, the County Board, Murphy and that older generation included, there truly is vast amounts of work being carried out now behind the scenes to rectify problems that have really come home to roost in the last 72 or so hours.

There is progress being made at U14 and U16 levels, for example, better late than never and all that.

Can even more be done? Possibly but then there are only so many hours in a day.

Nevertheless, it is going to take time, probably years in fact, before Leesiders begin to really witness, first-hand, the benefits of that groundwork.

Therefore, supporters need to be patient.

For many, the well ran dry in that regard a long time ago, understandable too because, let’s face it, it has been some terribly steep fall from grace, particularly in the last decade.

Unfortunately peeps, you just have to suck it up and accept there is no short-term fix to the many and varied problems within Cork GAA at present.

The reality of the situation is there were many factors at play which led to both Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s and Brian Cuthbert’s men exiting Championship stage left at the weekend.

We’ll get to those micro senior inter-county teams-related issues later though.

For now, we’ll focus on the main macro problems.

First of all, supporters need to cool the jets on the expectation levels.

They are both out-dated and unrealistic.

In fairness, if people believe those in the County Board need a reality check, and I have no doubt some of them do as is previously referred to, then supporters could also do with revising their thinking on what is expected of the inter-county teams.

And don’t give me ‘Ah shur boy we’re Cork, the best at everything’ line.

To paraphrase good auld Johnny Glynn, that’s a ‘f@*#ing bulls#%t’ attitude to still retain. The sooner people realise it the better.

And in saying that I include myself and media friends and colleagues alike.

The days of Leesiders being justifiably smug about the exploits of their inter-county GAA teams should be a thing of the past as our capacity to really compete for honours most certainly is history, for now at least.

Should the People’s Republic expect the highest of standards? Absolutely!

However, living off past glories and retaining the perception of ‘invincibility’ is doing more harm than good as it heaps subconscious pressure on the teams at minor, U21 and senior levels.

And given results suggest we are clearly not blessed with the standard of players of old this default setting of simply expecting to win is counter-productive.

Secondly, the structures of the club championships at adult grades need a serious rethink.

This idea of having 144 opportunities to reach the fourth round of the competitions is a total joke.

In all seriousness, every team deserves a second chance in the championships but a third?

Scaling down the number of rounds will also alleviate the exhaustive club-v-inter-county fixtures schedule issue.

Thirdly, the in-house ‘politics’ that goes on in every club, especially dual clubs whereby players are being dragged from pillar to post, and the negative connotations that stem from it are far from helpful either.

Leave the egos at the doors and work together for the betterment of your club and, as a by-product, the county.

I am sure the majority of personnel are already dovetailing together efficiently but ‘politics’ still exists and needs addressing.

Obviously, it’s never going to be completely eradicated but keep it to a minimum where possible.

On that micro note, and specifically pertaining to both senior teams, perspective and poise is oh, so badly required now.

In terms of the hurlers, both the management and players are equally to blame, as are the footballing equivalent.

JBM and his selectors should have switched to a sweeper system much earlier in the season.

Again, introducing it was better late than never but surely supporters appreciate the transition was unlikely to be smooth, especially as it was being carried out mid-Championship.

Also, the footballers are regularly referred to as ‘heartless’ and ‘gutless’. And they certainly didn’t do much to counter that description in Thurles on Saturday night.

Yet, the only hurlers I saw dying with their boots on against Galway were the superb Daniel Kearney and Seamus Harnedy.

Furthermore, nobody can tell me the likes of Diarmuid O’Sullivan, John Gardiner, Ronan Curran, Seán Óg, Tom Kenny, Jerry O’Connor and Brian Corcoran would have allowed their team-mates be shoved around the way some Leesiders were on Tom Semple’s field by the Tribesmen.

It is one thing losing to a superior side technically on a given day, and this goes for both the hurlers and footballers.

It is another thing entirely to give up the ghost in the final quarter which both sides essentially did on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

And people can say ‘Ah shur they’re only amateurs’. They are and they’re bloody amazing amateurs at that. When the sh#t hits the fan though they have to take some of the blame.

That’s just the way the levels of scrutiny, rightly or wrongly, are from all angles these days.

It can’t always just fall on the managements’ laps either.

On the flipside, had Patrick Horgan’s goal-bound attempt with 12 minutes of regulation-time remaining found the corner of the net rather than the boss of Colm Callanan’s hurl who knows which side would be meeting Tipp in an All-Ireland semi-final now.

That would have brought Cork, who were being out-hurled, to within two points at a vital stage and Galway may have flagged thereafter. Who knows!

Would it have been papering over the cracks if such a comeback had transpired? Of course it would. But the world and its mother would be here today basking in a glorious fight-back ignoring the vast number of wides Galway had already racked up.

Additionally, the footballers could easily be preparing to meet Fermanagh in the last eight of the All-Ireland series with a probable semi-final against either Monaghan or Tyrone, assuming they overcome Sligo, to follow.

Still, the fact they did not score for 26 minutes of the second half of the replayed Munster SFC final grates the most in the long list of frustrating Cork GAA occurrences in the last 10 days or so.

The margins, however, can be tiny at that level.

The reality, therefore, in all of this doom and gloom is that there is no one element or individual to blame for both Cork teams departing the Championship scene before August.

It is a combination of many strands, some outside of a manager’s control too.

For instance, how could JBM or Cuthbert legislate for players inadvertently miscuing passes that led directly to crucial scores for the opposition?

At times like these there are many variables at play.

With that in mind, directing blame in any one direction is nonsensical.

Perspective and the bigger picture are key.

And, finally, on the note of perspective, while people air their complaints about the state of Cork GAA, put yourself in the shoes of Aaron Devlin and his family.

That’s what’s really important. Real life issues. Not who gets their hands on September silverware.

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