We asked Michael Moynihan to write about the crisis in Cork GAA. When he calmed down he pointed out that he’s already done so. Quite a few times, actually, but he said he’d give it another go.
First principles: there is no crisis in Cork GAA because that kind of milestone — the angst generated by difficult but transitory circumstances — is long gone from the rear-view mirror.
What now pertains in Cork GAA circles is an apathy deep as permafrost, where dismal defeats and brave showings alike are greeted with indifference.
There is no anger on Leeside because to be angry, of course, you first have to care. The consolations are few.
You could fool yourself, if you’re from Cork, by adopting the multiple-universe theory beloved of experimental physicists, which posits an unfathomable number of parallel worlds where all possible lives are lived.
This was memorably spoofed when comedian John Oliver asked Stephen Hawking if there was a universe where Oliver was smarter than Hawking.
“Yes,” said Hawking, “there’s even a universe where you’re funny.”
Neither Hawking nor Oliver have expressed opinions on the likelihood of a parallel universe existing where Cork can beat Clare in football — perhaps on one of those planets NASA discovered last week - but we live in hope.
You might lean on the possibility that in decades to come Netflix may create a special series on the demise of the GAA in Cork: they have produced both Stranger Things and Making A Murderer, after all.
If your preference runs to more traditional media, then your attendance at events now lost in the mists of time, such as Cork reaching two senior All-Ireland finals in the same year, may be needed for some academic’s oral history, as he or she tracks the background to the abandoned GAA fields around the county and seeks to record your vague memories of that distant event.
For this observer, though, rational analysis of what is happening in Cork, hard data on that decline, is of little help.
I prefer to go back a thousand and a half years or so to Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy.
This book is the only solace in this particular day and setting, even if the great man himself had an odd fondness for stats (“The science of numbers ought to be preferred as an acquisition before all others, because of its necessity and because of the great secrets and other mysteries which there are in the properties of numbers.”) Boethius wrote the Consolation while he was locked up for treason.
In his near future there loomed prospects far more depressing than relegation to Division 3, so he turned to philosophy as a coping mechanism, to use a term now much in vogue.
If the prospect of a book written in the sixth century is marginally less encouraging than the prospect of watching Cork in Walsh Park next weekend, you should bear with me.
Because if the sheer scale of the calamity unfolding before your eyes is what’s particularly wounding, the height of the fall lending a grotesque singularity to the horror, then Boethius has you covered.
He told us that the greatest misery in adverse fortune is once to have been happy. This is what makes the defeats so piercing: to have once ruled the earth makes landing in the dirt all the more painful (that’s me, not Boethius).
On the other hand, if you are holding on to some sliver of optimism, a last belief in the ability of the Rebels, then the great man has anticipated that, too: “Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule, the mind is their subject.”
(Rarely have you seen ‘it’s the hope that kills you’ expressed so neatly.) I understand if you’re sceptical, but giving yourself over to the Consolation will help.
Boethius even anticipated the difference between the Cork hurlers, trusting in youthful potential because they have no other option (“As far as possible, join faith to reason,”) and the Cork footballers, who seem rudderless in the face of setbacks ( “All fortune is good fortune; for it either rewards, disciplines, amends, or punishes, and so is either useful or just,”).
Yes, the great man was executed after his year in prison by supposedly being strangled until his eyes popped out (they broke his skull open then to make sure).
But Boethius left his masterwork behind to help you to find peace within yourself, poor benighted Cork GAA supporter: “For other living things to be ignorant of themselves is natural; but for man it is a defect.”
‘Cork people have gone beyond apathy and into acceptance’ All our sport podcasts can now be found on Soundcloud and iTunes.
SUBSCRIBE ON iTUNES for regular GAA, soccer, rugby shows and more.
Or view our show selection on SOUNDCLOUD
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved