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Rebels Roles Reversed?

As this edition goes to print, the 2016 All Ireland series will have come to a halt. Tipperary have claimed the Liam McCarthy, Kilkenny have won the Camogie for the first time since 1996, and Cork Ladies Footballers will have won yet another All Ireland title.

On the other side of Leeside, things appear more grim; the hurlers faced a humiliating loss to both Waterford and Wexford in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship and the All Ireland series respectively, while the footballers tasted the unforgettable loss against Tipperary and Donegal to prolong the drought.

What is present is a war on attitudes on the GAA in Cork. The results have led to a rush of blood to the Cork County Board, with massive restructuring and new appointments creating a ‘glass half empty’ attitude to the GAA in Cork.

No matter how many times we say it, Cork’s problems are evident across the board. Since the 2013 defeat to Clare, people are quick to point out the lack of club successes, the lack of university selection, lack of underage success and colleges as key reasons to justify the lack of silverware. Still, the fact of the matter is that Cork Ladies GAA is alive and thriving.

Since 2005, when Cork last won the Liam McCarthy Cup, and 2010, when the footballers last tasted Sam Maguire in 2010, Cork Ladies footballers have won 11 All Ireland Senior Football titles, 9 National Lady Football Leagues, 6 All Ireland Senior Camogie titles and 3 National Camogie League titles. On the club scene, Milford GAA have won three All Ireland Club Camogie titles, while Cork clubs have been ever present in the footballing All Ireland, with Inch Rovers winning the title in 2010, while Mourneabbey contested the 2014 and 2015 finals. At underage levels the successes are still filtering through, with the Cork minor footballers winning 4 All Irelands since 2005 and contesting 5 finals.

Despite these successes, which includes the 2014 and 2015 consecutive Double All Ireland titles (a feat never managed in male GAA history), Cork GAA has been cast as an organisation in chaos.

If the roles were reversed, and the Cork Senior Men’s hurlers and footballers had grabbed a hold of the sport, with a totalled 29 titles in 11 years, people would be calling for the death of GAA and competition itself. In Leinster this exact problem is currently a hot topic for debate when you take into account Dublin’s dominance of the Leinster Senior Football Championship, and Kilkenny’s 8 All Ireland titles & 9 Leinster Senior Hurling titles since 2005. Jim McGuinness and the pundits have been quick to take on this dominance with a new branding of the All Ireland Championship.

Across Ireland though, it is an argument which we have to address. Not only is it confined to the successes and attitudes, but a broader attitude that presents itself. One case in County Down, where Catherine McGourty won the Puc Fada event and received a medal; in the male equivalent, Paddy McKillen from Tyrone won the event and his prize was a ski trip.

Sexism is a question in GAA 2016. We cannot talk about the Championship restructuring or the Sky Sports deal when there is a case of inequality in our games. For Leeside, is it a glass half empty perspective? Or a sexist undertone to GAA in Cork? Do we need another glass? What is certain is a need for change at the heart of attitudes to the games in Cork, and in Ireland as a whole.