A good friend made an impossible request the other night - sum up the Cork hurling crisis in an instant. Sure the divil in me had an immediate answer - Cork-born players always have problems with managers whose name ends in the letters McCarthy! It was a cheap jibe and the humor lasted only a minute or so simply because, ridiculous as it all seems, this is no laughing matter. As things stand, 30 of the best hurlers in Cork have denied their county team access to their services and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, less than five months before the start of the championship. Their reasons are well documented. This is, after all, the third such strike by a group of Cork players in recent years, so there has to be something rotten on Leeside. The current bunch of hurlers, namely those who played for the Rebels last season, will tell you there is something drastically wrong in their county if you give them the chance. Just this week they made their case against the County Board and its secretary Frank Murphy yet again, at a well attended press conference in the fine Maryborough House Hotel on Monday night. Led by last season's captain John Gardiner, they outlined their gripes with purpose and an air of authority before coming to the same old conclusion once again - they are not coming back as long as Gerald McCarthy is their manager. Incidentally, you can read my account of said meeting elsewhere in the Irish Voice or, if you have an hour or so to spare, you can find the full statement from the players on any number of Irish websites, including those of The Irish Times and the paper that will always be known as the Cork Examiner. I have to warn you, however, that the players' statement is as long and as convoluted as their current strike action. To put their problems into a nutshell appears almost impossible, so we'll try putting it into a few shells of the nut variety. For a start they clearly don't like the incumbent County Board secretary Murphy, a man who has been a thorn in the side of many in the GAA and not just in Cork for as long as I can remember. The 2008 players obviously don't like their manager McCarthy and feel they were hoodwinked into being a part of the process, initially at least, that appointed him for another term late last year. They don't like the intransigence of their County Board, and have appealed to the clubs and their delegates to overthrow the balance of power inside Pairc Ui Chaoimh's meeting rooms, so to speak. They want change and they want it now before they will even consider playing in the red shirt of Cork again, which is all well and good - if you're a prima donna who thinks his opinion counts for anything. As it happens I wouldn't give these Cork players the power to cross the road, never mind dictate who manages them, who coaches them and who picks them. Player power in any sport is a recipe for disaster. I don't care how bad the Cork County Board are - and trust me, I've seen some bad County Boards in my time - they are not answerable to the players who happened to wear the county colors last season. The only ones who can overthrow the County Board are the delegates appointed by the clubs, the people with the real power in Cork as the players finally acknowledged this week. Nor should any manager in any sport have his position determined by the players invited to play for him. It is preposterous to think that the Irish soccer team or the Irish rugby team, for example, should decide if Giovanni Trapattoni or Declan Kidney stays in a job. That's what these Cork players - those who have deemed themselves to be the best in their county - essentially want of their County Board. They want to be judge, jury and executioner when it clearly makes no sense to offer them anything other than the opportunity to put themselves forward for selection. That's all any player can demand of any team - the opportunity to play his or her game at a level worthy of their skill and in suitable conditions. Demanding a say in who picks the team or who coaches the team is just ridiculous, and if these players don't want to play for Cork, as seems totally apparent right now, then fine. There are plenty of Cork-born players out there who are prepared to play for McCarthy and their county, and if they have to represent the Leesiders in this summer's championship then good luck to them. Once again the Cork players have taken the wrong options. They are quite entitled to voice their misgivings about the County Board and its long term secretary Murphy. They can even encourage the clubs and their delegates to move against Murphy as they did this week. They can make noises about the selection process that allowed McCarthy back into power against their wishes and expect a fair hearing. But striking and throwing the rattle out of the pram, denying both themselves and the Cork public a real All-Ireland platform this coming summer, is not the way to do it. Yet again they have shot themselves in the foot. If that's the only shooting these Cork players engage in this summer then good riddance to them - they have made their own bed, and now they have to lie in it.
Happy Earth Day! Ireland sure looks gorgeous from outer space