Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Striking Similarites

Big Jim Larkin and William Martin Murphy. Arthur Scargill and Maggie Thatcher. And now Donal Og Cusack and Frank Murphy. Another fine pair of strikers.

You can't have a proper strike without 'em. Two intractably opposed, obdurately resolute foes; but, really, two peas in a pod. While they sit in their war rooms, plotting their next move, devising the next advance on the No Man's Land of public opinion, they dream of routing their enemy utterly.

But, really, their impulses must be the same. The stubborness, the sense of moral superiority, the ownership of a poker face, and, undoubtedly, the colossal ego required to carry it all, to lead men beyond where they're not sure they want to go.
Because of the similiarities, ultimately, there is mutual respect. Apparently, in squad trips and holidays since they first crossed swords in the 2002 strike, Cusack and Murphy have maintained the utmost civility - "morning Frank", "morning Donal, and a fine day it is too", "it is that Frank, no doubt about it."

The charismatic figurehead is a sine qua non of a strike. The ability to organise a group of disparate individuals into one, unified voice in any circumstance is difficult; to do so while also persuading them to withdraw their services from a hitherto rewarding position is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of great leadership.

Of course, the fact that GAA players are not waiving a salary means they cannot truly be compared with those who strike in the industrial realm. But to be a Cork player over recent months, when many - the majority, by all accounts - of the public do not agree with your stance must have been a frequently buffeted station, with only one's principles to provide shelter.

If there has been a slight veering of opinion towards the players' side in recent weeks, perhaps it has been in recognition of the resoluteness of their stance. No player has broken ranks, no off-the-record "sources" have told of splits within the panels, though I'm sure many have been solicited to do so.

As well as this, the media pincer movement orchestrated by Cusack last week was bold and risky. But if strikes are won in the realm of public opinion, you must make sure to take the high ground. Could any Cork board member be as articulate and heartfelt in his case as Seán Og O hAilpín? It was a masterstroke to put one of Irish sport's most loved personalities forward so.

Whether O hAilpín's call for Frank Murphy's head was indiscretion on his part, or a calculated gambit from the Cusack's masterplan, will all come out in the wash eventually. By then we'll know if Cusack has succeeded where Big Jim and Scargill failed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to see how this turns out. It's yet another chapter of this most resolute of counties, the Rebel county. This indomitable resolve is also manifest in people who say "basically" every second word, and now hold dominion as implacable enemies of progress. If their hegemony is to be broken, the Rebels must show even greater depths of resolve, to end the tyranny of the basicallys. More power to them

3:31 p.m.  
Blogger Damian said...

The Cork players remind me of the Labour Party in 1994.

Ruairi Quinn famously remarked that they needed a head, any head, to satisfy them.

The players want to oust Frank Murphy, but are prepared to accept Teddy Holland's in the meantime.

It's all rather distasteful.

6:04 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

I don't know whether it's through in-built 'lefty' tendencies that generally favour the strikers over those being, em, struck, but I'm with the player here.

In the de facto semi-professional world of the top level GAA player, the sacrifices and commitment they make towards success must, in their eyes, be matched by the infr-structure and support of those who administrate.

When that support is second rate, or infected by petty small mindedness, then the players instinct is naturally to be dissatisfied.

The Cork public enjoyed their all-ireland successes greatly, they should back the player now if they want to enjoy more in the future.

7:06 p.m.  
Blogger Damian said...

I hear ya Tommy.

But I don't quite follow the idea that the support they have is second rate.

Of all the county teams in the land, Cork's back up is the best. Courtesy cars, gym memberships, top medical and physio treatment, sun holidays, limitless playing and lesiure gear and an unbelievably high profile that allows them to earn a few quid in endorsements.

I'm not suggesting they don't deserve all that, but he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Most of that is put in place by the county board (not until after the 2002 strike, but it's there all the same).

The board appoints the manager - and can, if it chooses, appoint selectors. Ultimately, they run the team that the players play for.

I don't see Newcastle United players going on strike because Dennis Wise was brought in by the board without Kevin Keegan's say so.

Nor have I ever heard tell of players from any team seeking to form part of the interview panel for future managers, as the Cork lads are apparently seeking.

Could you imagine Stephen McManus seeking a say in Gordon Strachan's successor?

The hurlers in particular are very highly regarded by the Cork public. I've been lucky enough to see them play several times in recent years and they are a fine, fine team (although past their peak now, I would suggest).

If they and the footballers don't play in the league I think the Cork public might well turn on them. Starved of football and hurling during the winter months, the hard core fans will be dying to see the teams back in action. (I'm off to Ballybofey tomorrow night and expect another 10,000 hardy souls to brave the cold too.)

This dispute is more about personalities that princples from my (distant) perspective. And no one is emerging with any credit from it.

If I was being uncharitable, I'd say the board and the players deserve one another.

12:04 a.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

In fairness, I think your final comment probably nails the matter on the head.

11:47 a.m.  
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