You might not be able to tell from the accent in which I write, but the rumours are true – I am a Corkman.
Hailing from the beginning of the western part of the county, I, like so many others, have been afflicted with an affection for the Cork senior football team. While I had the good fortune to attend my first All-Ireland finals in 1990, when Cork claimed the double, that perhaps set expectations too high.
Subsequent visits for Croke Park for football deciders in 1993, 1999, 2007 and 2009 brought heartache, so much so that, when Cork did finally claim Sam Maguire again in 2010, relief was the over-riding feeling – though by that stage I was watching from the press box and trying hard to suppress any external emotions.
Even in victory, though, the credit given to Conor Counihan’s side felt grudging – one prominent pundit jokingly claimed that the video of Cork’s season would be used as an instructional device for rugby league sides everywhere.
Without wishing to sound too defensive, it feels as if Cork are one of the most unloved football teams in the country, whether they win or lose. Ideally, in the eyes of many, Cork should be good enough to test Kerry before losing by four or five points, ensuring that the Kingdom are primed for Croke Park.
If Cork fail to live up to those expectations, they are written off; should the unexpected happen and they actually win against their neighbours, then sure haven’t Dublin been given an easy run at it?
A bit glib, perhaps, but just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. When Cork were genuinely among the top three or four teams in the country in the latter part of the 2000s and early period of the 2010s, there was still a sense that, even though they won one All-Ireland, three national league Division 1 titles and three Munster championships, they should have won more. This is a common historical allegation against the best Cork teams, with the 1973 side failing to build on their All-Ireland success and even Billy Morgan’s great side of the late 1980s and 1990s losing three All-Ireland finals compared to two wins.
Perhaps the jaundiced view comes from the fact that, as well as having to try to overcome Kerry each year, the Cork footballers are seen as less glamorous than their hurling counterparts, even during the periods when they are more successful. It has always been the way and probably always will.
One thing we can be sure of, though, is that new Cork football manager Keith Ricken will be coming into his role knowing all of the above and, at the same time, doing his best to ignore it.
We have interviewed Ricken in these pages previously and written about the refreshing uniqueness he brings in terms of his world-view and general approach, i.e. generally the opposite to what we’d expect from a GAA manager.
His interviews which have gone viral have given some insight into how he thinks and, while he may not always be so positive behind the closed door of a dressing room, having Cork zigging while everyone else is zagging may be no bad thing.
There are of course never any guarantees in sport – it could be that Ricken’s great strength of developing younger players doesn’t translate as well to a senior intercounty team – but he goes in with the best wishes of every Cork football supporter.
Who knows, maybe he’ll turn the Rebels into everybody’s second-favourite team.
On Monday, it was announced that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and Cadbury had undertaken a new partnership.
Nothing hugely earth-shattering in that you might think – sporting bodies engage with new sponsors all of the time – but this was noteworthy because the link-up is catering specifically for the growth of the women’s game in the country.
Now, you might well be justified in saying that the association’s parlous financial situation has been well documented of late and so every area needs a bit of surgery, but it is undoubtedly a positive that funding is being ringfenced.
Eoin Kellett, the managing director of Cadbury’s parent company Mondelez Ireland said: “According to Nielsen research, 73% of the general population agree that greater visibility of women’s sports and athletes is crucial to grow women’s sport. This is something we will look to support the FAI in addressing through the enhancement of football facilities for women and raising the profile of the exemplary role models playing the sport.”
Ireland captain Katie McCabe visited her club Raheny United, who will be among the first grassroots teams to benefit.
According to the press release, the funding will “provide the team with new kit and assist the club and players in covering running costs and fees for a year, making it more affordable for individuals to get involved in the sport”.
Ultimately, that is the determining factor, while involving girls from a young age is a huge help too as it’s less likely that someone who hasn’t grown up playing sport will take it up when they’re older.
Hopefully this is a partnership that will prove to be mutually beneficial.
Just in case anyone was wondering how SCAR (Skibereen Charity Adventure Race) went last weekend after my recent column about training for it – sadly, I was beaten.
I jest, of course. Finishing the 55km sport course (the misleadingly named “Taster” was 30km and Expert was 80km) at all was the primary aim and doing so in under four hours was the secondary target; both were achieved, the latter by minutes.
The main thing was that the event was again brilliantly supported, ensuring that the chosen charities benefited, and the level of organisation from Skibbereen Lions Club was top-notch, as ever.
While those of us taking part were there because we had chosen to enjoy (or endure) the challenge, there were nearly as many volunteers dotted along the course to ensure things went smoothly. We mightn’t always notice or appreciate them but if you’re involved in any kind of organised sport, it’s certain that you’re aided by those people who give their time in the expectation of nothing in return.
Ultimately, they’re the ones who keep it all going.