Have weaker football counties in Munster bottled it?

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh pours cold water on the strike threat action of footballers from Clare, Tipperary, Waterford and Limerick.

AS strike notices go, the footballers of Clare, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary have certainly made their mark.
A first in GAA ‘industrial’ relations, you’d have to say.
A first that might yet gain them an entry into Uncle Arthur’s big book of records.
Unprecedented stuff really, all because of the remarkable move by the ‘small four’ to give the powers that be in the Munster Council two years advance warning that they’ll be kicking their championship balls to touch come 2015.
Ah lads, come on.
What kind of revolution and uprising is that? Is that the best you can do?
As in, basically do nothing about the wish of the powerful elite within Munster football to have a two-tiered system in the province. Kerry/Cork, then the rest of the ‘small four’.
Ye were told that the Munster final day was basically about the big cheeses from Kerry and Cork – the fillets of football in the province that they are.
Munster finals by ‘de Banks’ or down in ‘Beauty’s Home’. Big days. Big crowds. Big pay days. Tradition. Divine rights. All that crap.
That’s what the seeded draw in the Munster senior football championship ordains and yearns for, albeit there’s still nothing to stop one of the ‘small four’ from taking out Kerry or Cork at the semi-final stage.
Remember Martin Daly and that goal in 1997 – if it can be done once, why not again.
And remember Limerick hammering Cork back in 2003, down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at that, when they pummeled them by 0-16 to 0-6 on their way to reaching that year’s Munster final.
That’s what Limerick footballers should be aspiring to ten years on; it’s what Clare footballers should be aspiring to 16 years on.
That said, the seeded draw still discriminates. It’s positive discrimination where Kerry and Cork are concerned because it paves the way for those big days; it’s negative discrimination if you’re from Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford, because it effectively makes it impossible for them to win the Munster championship.
And history backs this up. With Kerry and Cork in opposite sides of the draw, a team from the ‘small four’ have only once managed to beat both of the ‘big two’ in the same year to claim Munster championship honours.
That was in 1900 when Tipperary beat Cork in the opening round and then after hammering Clare by 6-11 to 1-6 in the semi-final duly dispatched Kerry in the final by five points.
That’s 113 years ago, so the likelihood of lightening striking for a second time is slim, to virtually none.
But Kerry or Cork don’t really care, because the Manifesto of the ‘football’ People in both counties is and always will be that Munster finals in Killarney and Páirc Uí Chaoimh are something sacred, to be nurtured, cultivated and protected.
Of course players from Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford rail completely against this notion harboured by the elite – it’s why they at once moved to mobilize themselves after the proposal put before the Munster Council on September 12 by the Provincial Competitions Control Committee to change the format to a seeded draw for the 2014 championship was passed.
There was a meeting in Tipperary Town that was attended by captain Gary Brennan, former captain Gordon Kelly and vice-captain Joe Hayes, while the Clare County Board chairman Michael McDonagh was also in attendance.
That’s when they went about reversing the decision of Munster CCC, firstly by getting the two Limerick delegates – who originally proposed that a seeded draw be re-introduced and thereby sold their county footballers down the Shannon – to change their minds, then by getting the Waterford delegates who abstained on side as well.
It meant that there was confidence among the ranks of the ‘small four’ that the decision would be overturned, only to be knocked back on their heels by the ruling of chairman Robert Frost that there was “no jurisdiction to revisit the original decision taken on September 12th as this would be in breach of rule 3.31 (e) which states that alterations may be considered only on an annual basis”.
Their response was another meeting and the threat of strike action in 2015.
Not good enough really. You mobilize your army, bring football people from Clare, Tipperary, Waterford and Limerick together and singing from the same hymn sheet, get ready to fight, but then postpone your action for two years.
They must be laughing in Kerry and Cork.
All because they know how to strike, and the fruits of their strikes have produced results.
Take the Cork footballers just a few years ago. They weren’t happy with the appointment of Teddy Holland as manager of the senior footballers and took a stand – they didn’t say ‘we’ll strike in two years unless there is change’. They walked straight away, got their way and then came back and proved they had a point by winning three league titles in a row and an All-Ireland.
Take Kerry, the first ever county football team to go on strike. That was back in 1910, when they put principle over the winning of the All-Ireland title.
That year they protested against the conditions afforded to county players by the Great Southern and Western Railways on their way to big games – their mantra being that as standardbearers of their county and All-Ireland men, they deserved much better than being herded like cattle into trains as they made their way to Jones’ Road.
That’s why they refused to travel to play Louth in All-Ireland final of 1910, only for the GAA Central Council to award the title to the ‘wee county’.
Kerry were the big winners though – change came on the Great Southern and Western Railways soon afterwards and they were soon back winning All-Irelands.
The footballers of Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford should have struck now – went on strike ahead of the 2014 Munster Championship draw last Thursday night or else just walked away and accepted their fate.
By putting the strike on the méar fada, dangling it before 2015 they’ve done neither. They’re like John Redmond and his Irish Party in 1914 when they said to John Bull, ‘ok we’ll go and fight your World War and then we’ll get Home Rule’, instead of demanding Home Rule there and then.
Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford should have demanded that the seeded draw be scrapped.
There and then. Nuff said.

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 with a degree in history and politics. After completing a Diploma in Journalism at The College of Commerce, Rathmines in 1991, he embarked on a career in journalism. Joe spent four years with Clare FM from 1992 and was with The Clare Champion from 1996 to 2005. He has won two McNamee Awards for GAA journalism and has published two books. Contact Joe on [email protected]

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