The general consensus seems to be that Saturday’s simultaneous launch of the National Football League and the GAA’s 125th anniversary celebrations was a ‘spectacular success’ (the cost aside, I wasn’t overly impressed; but then maybe I’m just not a fireworks type of guy). Certainly the game between Tyrone and Dublin, greatly aided by the new rules, was an advertisement for what Gaelic could be given half a chance.
More’s the pity then that the action in Thurles, the ‘home of hurling’, on Saturday week will be tame by comparison, unless there’s a sudden change of tack by the chief protagonists in the most unseemly mess to mar a century-and-a-quarter of a great association.
Long since scheduled to mark the first floodlit match at Semple Stadium, the recently redeveloped ‘Field of Legends’, the would-be mouth-watering meeting with Tipp will be completely overshadowed by the putrid Gerald McCarthy controversy.
The occasion will be the first in a programme of celebrations in Tipperary to mark the founding of the GAA in Hayes Hotel in 1884. Earlier in the day the Central Council will hold its February meeting there – and there’s little doubt as to what will be, if not on the agenda, on the tip of delegates’ tongues.
Having tried to take in the broad, personalised sweep of the strikers’ statement (it’s not easy to absorb the same semantics over and over) and the anecdotal evidence aired at last week’s pretty depressing press conference – which copper-fastened the impression that, whether they’re right or wrong, the 2008 brigade are acting like some sort of provisional movement; call it ‘Continuity Cork’ – it’s reached the stage where something fundamental will have to give. And McCarthy has to be the weakest link.
A majority of the public at large, i.e. outside of Cork are in the manager’s corner. But it’s only the GAA rank and file in the county that count. Frank Murphy, who, you sense, wouldn’t sacrifice himself for the sake of anyone or anything, together with his board cohorts/underlings, have banked that the clubs who voted to keep McCarthy against the players’ wishes will ‘stand strong’.
But the footsoldiers must be wavering, what with humiliation, starting in Thurles, staring a peacock-proud people in the face. If it hasn’t already, the stark reality of where they’re headed (Division 2, the Christy Ring Cup) will finally start to dawn on Cork in the very place the GAA was conceived.