Spotlight turns on Cork team

Wed, Feb 4, 2009, 00:00

WITH THE chances of a successful intervention in the Cork hurling crisis now running somewhere between slim and zero the spotlight is turning towards the development team that will feature in Sunday’s opening National League match against Dublin.

Manager Gerald McCarthy won’t announce his starting 15 until after training tomorrow evening, but with the entire 2008 panel still on strike, there certainly won’t be any household names taking the field in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Instead, their average age will be just over 21 and for the vast majority it will be the first league start of their career.

While Croke Park still haven’t ruled out their intervention before the weekend, GAA operations manager Feargal McGill admitted there was still no likely solution on the horizon: “We are still exploring any way we can assist the various parties,” he said. “But at this point there are still no definite moves on that.”

McGill also ruled out the likelihood of another outside mediator being called in, similar to Kieran Mulvey, the head of the Labour Relations Commission, who played a key role in finding a resolution to last year’s stand-off in Cork. Mulvey has also said that he didn’t see himself returning as a mediator, and that it was down to the protagonists on both sides to find a compromise.

“We don’t see the point in calling in another mediator,” said McGill. “The fact is they had another mediator in there already (Olann Kelleher), and nothing came of it.”

McCarthy has been adamant for several weeks now that his only interest is with the development team that are willing to play for Cork. Last Sunday they played another challenge game, losing to Galway club side Portumna, and having lost the previous challenge against Waterford, and also their opening game in the Waterford Crystal Cup against Waterford IT, his team selection is awaited with much interest.

It is likely to be similar to those in recent games, and highlights the inexperience of the players at hand: goalkeeper Alan Kennedy is one of four players from county champions Sarsfields to make himself available, having played under-21 last season.

The other Sarsfields players are corner back Conor O’Sullivan, midfielder Tadhg Óg Murphy, son of former Cork footballer of the 1980s Tadhg Murphy, and wing forward Cian McCarthy, son of Teddy McCarthy, now a selector.

Two players to stand out in the recent challenge against Waterford were goalscorers Aidan Ryan and Craig Leahy. Gen O’Connor of McCarthy’s club St Finbarr’s is sure to figure and also likely to start in the new-look Cork attack are Darren Crowley of Bandon and Colin O’Leary of Blackrock.

Dublin manager Anthony Daly, who enjoyed a confidence-boosting win over Offaly, 1-20 to 2-15, in Sunday’s Walsh Shield final, is due to announce his team to travel to Cork after training tomorrow.

In the meantime, momentum is gathering for Saturday’s march of support for the 2008 Cork panel, who continue to train under their own watch at their base in Mourneabbey. A route through Cork city centre has been approved by the Garda.

Organisers of the march say it will not be carried out on negative grounds, with no criticism directed towards either McCarthy or the players who have made themselves available to play under him, but instead is aimed at demonstrating support for the 2008 players whom organisers claim have been undermined by the dealings of the county board.