Nothing but “revolution” will bring about the reform needed to reverse the decline of hurling and football in Cork, insists the county’s coaching officer Kevin O’Donovan.
O’Donovan has been blown away by the positive response he has received from clubs around the county since breaking ranks at the end of Tuesday night’s County Board meeting to distribute his 25-point, 16-page plan focused on tackling the myriad of problems he believes are blighting Cork GAA.
Having planned to introduce the document during the meeting, O’Donovan was forced to hold fire when standing orders were suspended, as a mark of respect to the late Jim Forbes. And while he accepts the manner in which he acted may have upset his top-table colleagues, he felt “backed into a corner” and “with no other option but to go public with these ideas”.
The 25 proposals outlined in the document range from restructuring the adult club championships, changing the minor age group from U18 to U17, establishing a supporters club to implementing an extensive regeneration project for hurling in Cork City.
“I feel as if I have unblocked a pipe that has been blocked for a lot of decades. Now all of these ideas are just pouring through,” said O’Donovan of the response from clubs.
The next step is for clubs to act so the various proposals feature on the convention Clár later this year. To this regard, O’Donovan has called for a revolution.
“It needs to be a revolution. People are really frustrated by the high profile inter-county results. I don’t mean that to reflect on the people involved with those teams because I admire those willing to stand on the sideline. But because of those results, people want action really quickly.
“Everyone is telling me this is rock bottom and we want to swim. People want major change. People, however, do not want a split, or the type of split we have had in this county previously.
“If we just went in all guns blazing, yeah, you might get change, but you might have the county split in two by the end of it. There is a 100% desire for a peaceful resolution.”
He added: “I already have had several people tell me they are organising club meetings to discuss the proposals. Ultimately, unless you create a motion for voting on the floor of the board, this will die. It is in people’s hands and they will have to act. I am sure they will.”
Among the proposals are recommendations to put in place a director for football, hurling and physical development, and a Rebel Óg junior administrator. All four would be full-time positions, while the regeneration project for Cork City and establishment of regional centres of excellence in Mallow and Clonakilty are other suggestions that would require significant financial input.
O’Donovan did not include costings in the blueprint for change as he wanted “everything on the table” before the knife was applied.
“There is major savings to be made in the county as it is. For example, the money spent on S&C far exceeds what it would take to take on a few full-time people to oversee S&C.
“‘Friends of Cork GAA’ would be a huge way of generating funds. Cork as a brand is in decline. A successful model will generate more funds. There is funding to be accessed out there if we project the correct image.”
Moreover, he doesn’t believe the document is too extensive to be implemented en masse.
“You have to look at the whole picture. If you changed the minor grade to U17, you would then have to make sure those 18-year olds who didn’t have a minor championship long-term were picked up in totality by clubs’ first, second and third teams and that those teams were playing proper, meaningful games. You have almost got to move a couple of wheels at the one time.
“In terms of it being unachievable or unrealistic, a lot of these proposals are common practice in a lot of counties. I would say a lot of counties are amused by the so-called radical nature of setting up a supporters club when Babs Keating set one up 30 years ago.
“I wouldn’t see the document as being radical. I would challenge anyone to tell me there is an idea in that document that they hadn’t heard before.”
He continued: “There is no quick fix. Let’s get over this ‘winning the match tomorrow’ crack. We can move quickly on small issues, but long-term, this is a strategic vision.”
The Kilmeen/Kilbree club man revealed he has not been contacted by a single member of the county board executive since Tuesday’s meeting. He has no intention to resign his position on the executive and rejected the accusation this was an ego trip.
“Last year, I was sitting on eight sub-committees. These committees are a complete hindrance in driving change so that is why I have stepped outside. Also, it would be a bit rich to say I am on an ego trip because If I was I wouldn’t be driving up to Cork most nights for these committee meetings. A lot of these proposals I brought to the executive 18-months ago when I first came in. I don’t feel I have committed some heinous crime against the board. I don’t see any sanctions that can be applied. I expressed opinions inside [the executive], I felt they fell on deaf ears and so I have brought them outside and we will see how that goes.”
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