In 2010, after four previous All-Ireland final defeats, Cork won their first Sam Maguire in twenty years, defeating Down in the final. All seemed rosy for Cork football once again, many thought that this victory would lead to a period of dominance for Cork football, after finally stepping out of the shadow of their fierce rivals Kerry.
Since then Cork have won only one Munster title and have only defeated Kerry once in Championship action, instead of stepping out of Kerry’s shadow Cork have retreated and have been overtaken by the likes of Clare and Tipperary as the second-best team in Munster.
In the league, Cork have languished in Division Two for three years now, narrowly avoiding relegation to Division Three last season on points difference, in the championship they were humiliated by Kerry in their new home, while Tyrone put an end to their championship with yet another humiliating defeat.
Something had to change and last week a report was launched that set out a new plan for Cork football over the next five years. Named #2024 – A Five Year Plan for Cork Football, it is a comprehensive plan that intends to bring Cork football back to the top table, not just at inter-county level, but also at all underage levels.
Most of the ideas brought forward in this report are already in place across other county boards around the country, with amongst others a high-performance manager and a talent identification manager being brought in. New Cork county chairwoman Tracey Kennedy says all of this is “common sense” and now that a new administrator is in charge the old structures that were in place will begin to change.
But can it or will the old demons that have hounded Cork GAA for decades rear their heads once again.
Old haunts are finally banished
One demon that won’t be haunting Cork GAA as they move towards the future is Frank Murphy. The former secretary of the county board retired in December, after 45 years at the helm of Cork GAA. Murphy’s influence over Cork GAA has been a hot topic for decades and his tenure created an apathy towards the county board and what many people saw as their stubbornness and refusal to move with the times.
With the cloud of Frank Murphy now lifted from Cork GAA, it is up to his successor Kevin O’Donovan and chairwoman Tracey Kennedy to clean up the image of the Cork county board, while also implementing the #2024 plan. One of the ways they are planning to shift the culture around Cork GAA is by appointing a media liaison, to improve Cork GAA’s image as the county who regularly take their infighting to a national level.
A saving grace from HQ
Luckily for this new county board, the debt that the they got into after the rebuilding of Páirc Ui Chaoimh is now separate to that of the county board as Páirc Ui Chaoimh is now a separate entity to the county board, therefore they have no responsibility to pay back the debt from the stadium reconstruction.
With that the county board is free to pump money into the #2024 plan without any repercussions from banks wanting the stadium debt paid back. If this hadn’t been the case it would have crippled Cork GAA for decades, but now thanks to the GAA’s handling of the situation Cork are free to implement the #2024 plan fully.
While the #2024 plan had been earmarked since last summer, one can’t help but wonder if it has been pushed forward in order to give the county board some good PR after the nightmare that was the Páirc Ui Chaoimh debt fiasco just before Christmas.
Can they stick together?
While everything seems to be going in the right direction for this new county board and with the football side of Cork are no longer playing second fiddle to the hurlers, it might not be very long until some on the hurling side of Cork begins to kick up a fuss about all this nice treatment the footballers are getting. If this does occur, it could very well derail the entire plan before it even gets going.
What the new county board will be looking for over the next few years from everyone associated with Cork GAA is unity, from their statement in the #2024 plan that sets out their new agenda they state “the GAA has been an inherent and inextricable aspect of the Cork psyche for generations, and Cork GAA success has contributed hugely to those essential elements of ‘Corkness’ recognisable to all our rivals: that air of confidence just on the right side of arrogance.”
If they are to return to their former levels of ‘Corkness’ that is so recognizable to everybody, they must stay united to do so, but it could end up being that ‘Corkness’ that could end up undoing any of the county boards grand plans, for now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Columnist with the GAA Wrap.