JOHN GARDINER has described county board secretary Frank Murphy’s impending retirement as a “fresh start” for Cork GAA but also paid tribute to a man with whom he clashed frequently during the player strikes in the county.
Gardiner has had a ringside seat for all three player strikes this decade, having played senior hurling with the county since 2002, and he was one of the most prominent panellists during the recent showdown with the board.
Cork secretary Murphy was urged to step down by the hurlers during that dispute but declined to do so. Earlier this month he announced he would be vacating the post, probably in 2010, but possibly 12 months later.
“Everybody knows, it’s been well documented, that we’ve had arguments with Frank Murphy,” said Gardiner. “He was part of a committee on one side of the table and we were on the other side.
“He has done a hell of a lot for Cork GAA. He has devoted his life to the GAA in Cork.
“It’ll be a fresh start. We don’t know who is going to come in to replace him as secretary. It’s a full-time role and obviously going to be a massive job in a county with the most clubs in the country.
“Frank was going to go anyway, so it’s not as if he was forced out.”
The furore over Gerald McCarthy’s tenure eroded Cork’s pre-season and league campaign with John Considine holding the fort before Denis Walsh was parachuted in for his first game against Kilkenny.
Cork were left in no doubt as to how far they had to go to make up lost ground that day in Nowlan Park, losing to Brian Cody’s side by 27 points, and Gardiner admits that they were handicapped from the off this season.
“The thing was totally disjointed at the start and we got it on track for the championship, but in order to compete against the top counties you have to be spot on. And there’s no doubt about it, we weren’t spot on this year.
With Cork’s de facto senior squad all on strike, McCarthy opted to start the last league campaign with what amounted to a panel that wasn’t even a second-string and Gardiner believes that prolonged the strike.
“I have nothing against them personally,” he stressed. “It was their choice. If someone asked you ‘do you want to play for your county?’ you make a choice. A lot of fellas wanted to do it. A lot of fellas decided not to do it as well. There was no hard feelings.”
None of the 2009 panel have yet given any indication they will not be available next season but one man who won’t be involved is trainer Jerry Wallace who has not been retained by Walsh and Gardiner paid tribute to the Midleton man.
“Jerry, while he was there, gave everything. We got to the four finals when Jerry was training along with Seanie McGrath. Denis just felt it was time to move on. Everything he gave to us was 100% professional and we enjoyed training under him. Jerry is a good friend of all of us and we’re definitely sad to see him go.”
With Na Piarsaigh out of both the SFC and SHC championships, Gardiner’s focus right now is firmly on Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Kerry.
“They deserve to be in the final, being the only unbeaten team left in the championship. The way they performed against Tyrone put the question marks to bed. I’m sure they’ll be thinking more than anyone else about the last time they played Kerry in the final.
“They’ll want to put that one behind them. I might be a bit biased, but they deserve an All-Ireland.”
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