They say admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery. Come on Frank, repeat after me: ‘Cork hurling is in crisis, and has been for some time’.
To be fair to county board secretary Frank Murphy and his ilk, they are not the only men and women that could be accused of an oversight. Oddly, very little national media attention has centred on the decline of the old game on the plains where it was once mastered.
Twelve months ago, Donal Óg was waspish in his analysis of hurling administration in his home county after they had been bloodied by Tipperary during their All-Ireland semi-final. Other than that, it’s hard to recall any examples of national spotlight warming the underbelly of Cork hurling.
On Sunday, Cork were ruined by Galway. If Joe Canning had been operating at any more than 60% of his unrivalled ability, their humiliation would have had parents jumping to block the telly from the view of their offspring. As it so happens, Canning shot eight wides. Cork only lost by four goals. Maybe that will be enough to keep Frank wrapped blissfully in swaddling blankets of ignorance.
Ten years ago, Cork moved to 30 All-Ireland titles, two more than Kilkenny. Does Murphy even realise that they’re now five Liams behind their arch-rivals? He certainly hasn’t been moved by Cork’s terrible performances at most grades, most levels, for almost two decades. Senior teams will be the last to rot, but even they’ve been decomposing for years. This time next year, Cork will try, in vain, to bridge an eleven-year gap. That’ll be twelve years without a senior hurling title, their longest famine in five decades.
Let’s say Murphy and the rest of the county board wake up tomorrow morning and finally decide they aren’t happy with their lot. What do they do? What’s already been done, if anything? They’ve decided to spend 80 million units on redeveloping the Páirc, but it’s not easy to decipher how that will help Cork’s number one priority.
Cork’s favourite game is also unlikely to profit from their ‘Centre of Excellence’. The word ‘excellence’ must be a term with a greater litany of interpretations in Cork than anywhere else when you consider that it can be applied to a centre containing just two pitches.
One could try to outdo Dónal Óg in stakes pertaining to eloquence, but his description of the centre as ‘a monument’, as opposed to an abode for excellence, is far too close to perfection to keep this writer motivated.
Does Cork’s decline have anything to do with the corresponding slippage of its three most reputable city clubs? The Barrs, The Glen and Blackrock have been in a poor state for decades now, but hurling in the city is not exactly buckling at the knees.
Bishopstown, Douglas, Sarsfields and Na Piarsaigh would be bracketed by many as part of the Cork urban area, and they’re in relatively good health. That said, it could be argued that the City and urban area still wields too much power, particularly at underage level, when you consider that supremacy in Cork’s domestic game has been centred in the north and east of the county for quite some time.
That pushes us towards the next point of discussion. Cork is a sprawling county and has a GAA scene to match. There are 265 clubs in Cork, making it more akin to a province. Extraordinarily, that awesome figure is complemented with a far less impressive tally of five games development officers. The record of the county’s underage divisional development squads has been fragmentary, and such initiatives need to be of the highest calibre within a county of such expanse.
The college scene in Cork might also be plagued by such issues. Where hurling was once heavily centred in the North Mon, Colman’s and Farna, you now have a less concrete scene with the hurling youth dotted across schools of the old and new variety. Séamus Harnedy hurls for St. Ita’s, and despite his considerable reputation, he never wielded a hurley as an underage member of the blood and bandage. It was not until his days at UCC that his inter-county prospects burgeoned. Maybe Harnedy is one of the lucky small town hurlers. How many more have been denied the chance to register with the public consciousness at all?
So what would be a good starting point? That Cork have not appointed a director of hurling is suggestive of just how blasé the county board has been in facing towards the abyss. Some may accuse this piece of being an overreaction when you consider this outfit very nearly won the All-Ireland two years ago, but that’s not to say they were fortunate to have been afforded a chance at all, as Clare were clearly superior in both games.
If you’re of the belief that a problem does not exist, then embrace these facts;
– Cork have not won an All-Ireland senior title since 2005
– Have not won an under-21 title since 1998
– Have not won a minor title since 2001.
Still not convinced?
Between their college, club, under-21, and minor teams, how many Munster titles have Cork won since 2009? Not one.
That just doesn’t happen in Cork. If you still have your doubts, I take it your name must be Frank.