Monday, January 26, 2009

The one with the hurlers statment



We have decided to call this press conference to try and make our position clear for people, given that we have now been left behind by the Cork Senior Hurling management with the full backing of the Executive of the Cork County GAA Board.

The last time such a conference was held was in 2002 and then it involved only seven of the representatives of the 2002 panel.

You can see before you this evening the entire Cork Senior Hurling panel from 2008, who will be available for questions after this statement, which I am reading on behalf of us all.

That we feel it necessary to be here and to attend in such numbers, is a reflection of how things have gone since that first press conference over six years ago.

The truth is that in the eyes of some, we committed an unforgivable act of treason at that time, and they have taken every opportunity since then to undermine us, divide us and deride us. The fact that not all of those involved in 2002 were on the panel in 2008 has not made any difference.

For those of us who have been hurling for Cork for a long time, it is a sad and bad time. For those who have just started out it is doubly so.

That the younger members of the panel are here, and clear in their hearts and heads, as to why they are, is a testament to them and a source of enormous hope for the future of Cork Hurling.

If we have men with convictions, and the courage to match them, then we will always have a chance.

Over the years, the Cork Hurling public have been kept in the dark, not represented and misguided, in the furtherance of the agenda of taking back control at all or any cost.

We are here to set the record straight.

We hope that in doing so, people can make up their own minds based on the reality, not the spin we have heard for months.

In the terrible turmoil of the world at the moment, the one good thing which is becoming clear is that people are being forced, and are willing, to decide what really matters to them.

People are rejecting the old ways that got us in the various messes we find around us.

Cork Hurling is sacrosanct to us and to those involved in it throughout the County at grassroots level.

It involves a trust, a search to be the best, a belief in confidence with humility, a tradition to be revered and many traditions to be created.

The trust has been abused, the standards have fallen and the members of our organisation are in despair at what is happening.

We believe that the time has come to speak plainly and directly.

We, as things stand, have nothing to gain by doing so.

If we don't, we as the leading County in the G.A.A. will continue to lose our way.

We want to put the record straight in relation to the current Cork Hurling management;

We did not object to or in anyway undermine the management for 2007 and 2008.

We assisted in every way possible with any difficulties as regards team management during that period.

We were given a role in the selection process for the Hurling manager for 2009 by Kieran Mulvey in his arbitration findings in early 2008.

In good faith, our representatives took part in a number of meetings on behalf of the panel, until it became clear that there was no process really involved. The Board Executive clearly viewed it as a vote, in which they would always have a majority. This was obviously not a "process" by any interpretation of the word.

In spite of the views of our panel as regards the outgoing management, the Board Executive decided to force a vote on the only candidate put forward by them.

There was no process either for the selection of candidates or for their assessment. It has been our view since, that when we had left the "process", it could not legitimately conclude its business without us.

The Board may argue that they have technically complied with the process in the usual "rule book" way but then certainly did not comply with the spirit of it.

Accordingly, we have always maintained that the appointment of the current manager was flawed.

Despite this, and out of respect for the man on a human level, and given the actions of other inter-county panels last year, we decided to send an urgent delegation to meet him to explain our position, in private.

We set out the lack of confidence in him within the panel and the fact that he was, in our view, being used by the Board Executive to further their longstanding agenda.

He rejected our views outright despite a further meeting, again in private and with a larger representation.

The manager was then duly ratified by the Board, even though he was the only person in Cork who the panel had definitively stated that they did not want as manager, having had two years of his management.

Since then unfortunately, because the man has been in a compromised position he has spent the winter flip flopping between closing the door on the panel and opening it, between criticising and antagonising our panel and praising it. He has taken the good name of some of our best and has persuaded other young players to put themselves in equally difficult positions.

We recognise that he has been supported in full and in writing by the Board Executive in all these endeavours.

We have resisted the temptation to comment on the manger personally. We have been left with no option but to comment on his ability, in our view, as a coach or manager. We would not have had to unless the Board Executive insisted on ramming his selection through.

It should be remembered that no Cork player publicly criticised the manager after the defeat in the All Ireland Semi-Final and we would never have commented at all unless forced to do so.

Furthermore, we have never at any time spoken of his business activities or interests or his personal traits, even though he did comment on ours.

The promises of a development system, involving a centre of excellence, made by the manager were obviously an attempt to show that there is some sort of plan.

To be fair to him, he was not responsible for such a plan and we cannot hold him responsible for having forgotten about it over the last few months.

Ironically, such a plan was proposed by our representatives, in the failed process to appoint the new manager.

The fact that no such plan exists or is being implemented in Cork is a damning indictment of those responsible.

This statement, as you know, is being made on behalf of the entire panel of 2008, which you see in front of you. Everyone has had an opportunity to contribute to this statement and fully supports every word of it, of their own free will.

Some of us might like to be more radical in what we say, but the principle which we have adopted since 2002 is that we will act as one and speak in one voice.

To get to that one voice on any given issue or to decide how we will present ourselves, prepare ourselves or behave ourselves, has often involved long and difficult debate and argument among us.

Only when everyone has freely given their view does everyone take a decision.

The fact that some of the voices may have been heard for twelve years and some for only twelve months is important only to the extent that experience is beneficial on or off the field. Otherwise we are equal and we are strong.

We have on occasions too numerous to mention been accused of being said and led by Donal Óg and Seán Óg or whoever and for once and for all we want to make it clear that we find that notion deeply insulting to us all.

Are we expected to be sheep in meetings and suddenly turn into wolves on the field?

Are we to ask these people what to do in the split second heat of inter-county championship hurling?

If there is such a culture in Cork Hurling, it is elsewhere.

You can ask any player here about this issue and you will see from the reply you get and from the other questions you will pose, whether the answers are representative of the whole panel or not.

The other point about this is that it presumes that the elder statesmen on the panel would actually want to force young players to do their bidding. That is deeply insulting to them and we all reject it absolutely.

We do not have to try to intimidate anyone, as has been scurrilously alleged, despite that fact that it has been done to us since 2002.

We were not hurling for Cork in 2008 because we have turned up longer than anyone else or because we were prepared to do the bidding of anybody else.

We are aware that the perception exists in some quarters that we are a troublesome group; that we are difficult to deal with; that we behave like spoiled children as opposed to the role models for future generations of hurlers we would aspire to be.

Certainly the promotion of that perspective has been the intention of Gerald McCarthy since last autumn and of the Board Executive since 2002, in our view.

All media efforts have been concentrated or reaching the point, which was reached last Tuesday, of throwing the hands up in exasperation at the unreasonableness of this group and seeking to curry the support of the Cork Hurling public on the basis of this untruth.

We are passionate about our hurling, about our clubs, and about winning for Cork. This may lead to a lack of perspective occasionally! It may lead to us having to take tough decisions and get involved in battles many of us have fought over and over.

Where there is a genuine intention in Cork to work together for one purpose, even if mistakes are made or games lost, we have no complaint.

There was no complaint from us from 2003 to 2006. We contested all eight available championship finals and won five of them over those four seasons. We haven't contested a final since.

One occasion when we might have spoken out and didn't was the initial appointment of Gerald McCarthy. We refrained in the hope that the candidate of choice of Frank Murphy (who according to Gerald had to be very persuasive) might somehow work out.

We hoped that the structures of the previous four years which came from us, together with the managerial choice of the Board might be the marriage to end the ongoing hostility and mistrust.

Of course, it transpires that we were naïve, in that we supposed such an intention existed on the side of Frank Murphy and the Board Executive.

We feel that there is a sickness at the heart of the organisation in Cork which must be healed. It is not for us to apportion blame as to how that happened. We believe that the cure can only come from within this great organisation. In the meantime, we refuse to take part further in the latest manifestation of that sickness.

If that makes us difficult, then that is regrettable. We would all, to a man, prefer to be labelled as difficult than as cowards; to be seen as fanatical rather than morally weak; to be seen as acting above our station rather than subservient and self-serving.

We have no fear of the laws of the world; when there is a better player he must take our place; when there is a better team against us we will be defeated; when there is a better idea or ideal for Cork Hurling, we will be irrelevant.

It is for the Board Executive to push what it sees is best for the G.A.A. in Cork and to seek to guide and lead the Board and the organisation.

Where those present at Board meetings have no time, capacity or incentive to seek or promote the views of their own clubs, there is little need for invention or persuasion.

In theory the Executive should answer to the Board of Delegates; in reality the Board of Delegates answers to the Executive.

Where there is no room for real debate the people involved become despondent and where this happens you have only one result; A dead system.

Only those who believe that the Board is active or representative, or those who don't care whether it is or not, could be happy to perpetuate the situation.

It's been this way for so long, that clubs have had to decide that if they want any representation, they have to take it as it is.

Because of the systemic problems, the organisation has no capacity to reflect the wishes of those it is elected to serve. The incentive for people who might like to actively try to do so is negligible.

One rarely hears of hotly contested elections for the role of Board Delegate. This should not be so. It should be among the most important jobs in a club. We should all be grateful to and inspired by the ambassadors of our club who should be actively able to represent us in a real way.

If you were to ask any Club member who runs the GAA in Cork, whether he or she is for or against him, they would all, if being honest, reply "Frank Murphy".

This is the truth of a situation which is a long time in the making and cannot be healthy. We all agree that Mr. Murphy is a thoughtful and capable man, but he needs, as do we all, to serve this organisation and he shouldn't be expected to have to continually lead it.

Cork needs strong and capable leaders, whose agendas, ideals and plans emanate from the membership, through the rigours of lively and fearless debate.

We, as GAA people, who believe in a living democratic process, should accept no less than this.

If the Cork Hurling public really preferred the ways of the Board Executive, this argument would have ended rather quickly in 2002.

Despite the Board Executive enjoying ringing endorsements from its delegates time and again, the will of the hurling people in Cork has always shone through in the end.

This time it is needed more than ever. If the ways of the Board Executive are now the wishes of the Cork GAA public then so be it; we will disband as a group and face that reality. If not, they now, surely, deserve the change that will end this ridiculous series of altercations for once and for all.

The solution to this situation, like all the others, rests with the Cork Hurling public.

We do not want to choose our own Manager; we do not want to cause trouble or difficulty; we do not want to delight our opponents around the country with stories of division in the proud County of Cork and its Clubs.

We want to do our very best as totally committed amateurs for Cork Hurling.

We call on the members of our clubs to take back control of their organisation and to accept that the responsibility for a resolution of this situation actually resides with them.

Things have been left get out of hand again and again by those elected to manage this organisation.

We do not want to manage this organisation.

Staying quiet and hoping that some inspired third party will come in to paper over the chasm that exists in our County, is no longer an option.

Are we or the 2009 panel destined to spend next winter in another ridiculous shambolic waste of time?

We are calling on the membership to mobilise and to decide what they want for the future.

As a start and as repeatedly requested by them, we are issuing invitations to the Chairpersons of all the Clubs of Cork to meet with us as soon as possible to discuss the situation further.

We will await developments generally but let us be clear;

If we do not have the support of the Cork Hurling public in our actions, we will disband.

We do not and will not hold any ill feeling personally towards any of the people involved in Cork Hurling, including any player currently with the Cork set up or who might return should we so disband.

If this is it for this panel, then so be it. We have unbelievable memories and friendships to recall and take with us.

We have been proud to represent our Clubs and County with the very best of our efforts.

Whether those efforts should include the stand on our principles we have repeatedly felt obliged to take, is for the Cork people to decide.

We have genuinely tried to honour a tradition of honesty and integrity bigger than us, by taking those stands.

We have tried, by doing so, to make things better for future generations of Cork hurlers.

We want to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, those supporters of Cork Hurling who stood by us through thick and thin and hope that they will carry equally fond memories of this team.

We will close by reading to you what each player wrote to Gerald McCarthy in response to his recent letter to us all asking us to return under his stewardship;

"Dear Gerald,

We acknowledge receipt of your letter. Given the seriousness of the issues at hand and the fact that the thirty players in question remain steadfast in their stand, this correspondence does not alter the situation in any way.

In fact, the haste with which the letter was leaked for publicity purposes has, if anything, merely compounded matters.

Can we remind you that our passion for the Cork jersey remains as strong as ever. There are no men within our County more committed to that jersey than the thirty players who received your letter and I can assure all involved that the anguish they are suffering at the moment is intense and real.

However, our commitment to the principle by which we took this stand, is total, and the pain being felt by the players serves only to deepen their resolve.

We want to play for Cork and we want to win for Cork. We will not stand in the way of any player who wishes to play for Cork in those circumstances but our loyalty to each other, to our County and to our cause will not be tested."

Statement ends

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