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Eamon Sweeny tackles Big Headed Cork Hurlers

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Taken from today's Sunday Independent

 Corcoran joins 'trash talkers'
Sunday November 19th 2006

 ONE of the most appealing features of the GAA has always been the obvious respect the players have for each other. No matter how hard the game is or how fierce the rivalry, hurlers and footballers have nothing but praise for each other when they leave the pitch.

Football and hurling have been spared the tabloid-driven bad-mouthing culture of soccer. The habit is so prevalent in American sport they even have a name for it, 'Trash Talk.' That's why the recent macho media posturing of the Australian Rules players struck such a false note. Whatever their other faults, GAA players don't go in for that kind of useless chat.

Or at least they didn't. Not till the release of Brian Corcoran's autobiography in which the Cork player decides to dispense with the good manners which up till now have been central to relations between teams.

Corcoran reveals that in the run-up to Cork's All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Waterford, the Rebels had two posters made up, entitled, 'Our World,' and 'Their World.' Our World contained a list of the many positive qualities possessed by Cork. Their World listed the qualities the Corkmen thought were typical of Waterford, including, "Losing. Fighting Among Themselves. Playing for oneself, not the team. Relying on luck. Bringing others down to their level."

There you have it. Cork's opinion of Waterford, not merely used in the build-up to the game but proudly repeated in print by Corcoran. You can't finesse this one or minimise it. According to Cork, Waterford's players fight among themselves, play for themselves rather than the team, rely on luck and bring others down to their level. It is probably the most insulting thing to be written about one group of hurlers by another.

Elsewhere Corcoran accuses Waterford of being a group of individuals rather than a team, claims that Tony Browne gave up in the 2005 All-Ireland quarter-final, something which a Cork player would never do, and notes that Waterford clubs seem to be perpetually fighting each other in the latter stages of their county championship.

To top it all, he notes that the big difference between the current Cork and Waterford teams is that, "they are playing for greatness within their own county but we are playing for greatness in the history of hurling."

These insults would be bad enough if they were true. But they are actually a distortion of reality which gravely traduce a team which has given much to hurling over the last decade.

Take that line about, "bringing others down to their level." Well, the best game of hurling in recent years was the 2004 Munster final when Waterford actually brought hurling up to a level that Cork could not match.

I have not noticed the likes of Paul Flynn, Ken McGrath, Tony Browne and Dan Shanahan playing for themselves and not the team either. And I'm not convinced that Eoin Kelly, John Mullane and Dave Bennett rely on luck rather than skill.

This idea that Cork do everything right and Waterford do everything wrong is bizarre in the extreme. Cork have enormous resources of population to call on, much greater than that of any other hurling county. Their current team includes players with All-Ireland under-21 and minor medals. Waterford, by contrast, have had little success at under-age level and have nothing like Cork's pick. In the circumstances Justin McCarthy's two Munster titles may be just as impressive a feat as the two All-Irelands Donal O'Grady and John Allen steered Cork to.

(It goes without saying, of course, that Cork's caricature of Waterford is two fingers to McCarthy who is being portrayed as a manager who'd put up with this kind of rubbish from his team.)

So what's going on? Why has Corcoran opted to break with tradition and stick the boot into the Decies? He's not the kind of guy you'd have expected to come out with something like this after a long career during which he always played the game in an exemplary spirit. Having interviewed him, I'd have to say that he struck me as a modest man and most unlikely trash talker.

Perhaps the problem is that the Erin's Own man has become affected by the prevailing philosophy of a Cork side which, in recent years, became the most self-aggrandising outfit in the history of Gaelic games. He probably didn't have anything against Waterford, they just happened to sustain collateral damage as Cork rained down missiles of praise upon themselves.

This idea that Cork do everything right and Waterford do everything wrong is bizarre in the extreme

For example, in the same chapter where he disses the Decies, Corcoran describes a speech he gave to his team-mates outside the Burlington on the morning of that semi-final where he went on, at surprising length for a rainy day, about the parallels between Cork and Tiger Woods (they are Tiger to Waterford's Sergio Garcia, was the jist of it.)

But the unpalatable truth for Corcoran and his team-mates is that they inhabit a completely different universe from Tiger Woods and invoking his example, as though they were his equals, is deluded in the extreme. It's like a man who's just built six houses in Glanmire invoking the example of Donald Trump. Or a lad who plays the casio organ in the corner of the pub of a Saturday night telling you he understands Michael Jackson's paranoia because that's how it goes when you're a pop star.

Tiger has to take on the best in the world, the pick of every country where they play golf. Every failure of nerve or technique has the potential to cost him vast sums of money. Brian Corcoran has to take on opponents from a handful of counties on a small island. And he'll still get paid at the end of the week no matter how he does.

This is not to belittle hurling, just to put it into perspective. You don't love your wife any the less because she's not Eva Herzigova just as she's forgiven you for not being Brad Pitt. But it's this notion that Gaelic games should ape professional sport which is at the heart of Corcoran's witless words on Waterford. The whole book is obviously inspired by books on American sports where this kind of nonsense is a lingua franca.

Seeing it applied to our own games is an unpleasant experience. It's like wandering into an old beloved GAA bar, the type that used to have Carrolls All-Stars posters on the wall and a man who knew Mick Mackey in the corner, and finding it's been transformed into Big Tex's All-American Sports Bar And Grill.

The last laugh, of course, is on the author. Because after all the huffing and putting Cork didn't even win the All-Ireland. And though Corcoran claims that, "no other team has been as professional as us, no other team has our team spirit, no other team has made the sacrifices we have," it is Kilkenny who have been the best team of the contemporary era.

Judging by the book, Cork are fond of their stats. So here's a stat: Five All-Irelands, Kilkenny 3 Cork 2.

Without (one suspects) Brian Cody having recourse to posters denigrating the opposition, the Cats have done just fine.

The Claw:
Very good article by Sweeney there, and not a bit surprized by it. Cork, by virtue of their win at all costs mentality, have lost sence of the essence of the game. We all know the story about the Railway cup two years ago in Boston where all the COrk lads would stick together and go to the gym instead of going out with the rest of the lads. Apparently Niall McCarthy was the only one with a bit of craic in him.

One of the best aspects of the game is the socialising, getting to know your team mates and opponents.

The interesting thing is that I'd say these lads are all grand on their own. Sweeney said Corcoran would never come across as the type to write that stuff. It seems to be just when they are together the group mentaliy kicks in and the arrogance appears.

I can't comment on the Cork team because I don't know any of them but trash talking the opposition is hardly new. I can recall many team talks and pre match meetings were the opposition were 'analysed' and profiled and it's not the typew of stuff you wan t to be heard saying outside the room 'cos it would get you in trouble with the law.  If it made you feel superior to the other side and unafraid, then the end justifies the means... and don't let anybody tell me otherwise.  What's mopre have you ever been on a fioield listening to sopme of the things that are said.  Let's just say that thank God everybody's skin isn't as thin as Zidane's!!

I generally find Sweeney to be more right than wrong in his pointers but on thios one, by making out that Cork are in some way breaking a new mould, he is way and well wide of the mark.

Dual Star:

Eamon Sweeney is not saying that teams don't talk down their opponents. I'm sure he's well aware of the type of stuff that gets said iin team talks and the like. But this was never said in public. It stayed within the dressing room (or on the field). Once the interviews, before and after the match, were done it was all praise for the opposition

It's a pity we won't have a Mount Sion v Erin's Own club final. There might have been an extra edge to that clash.

Josey Whales:
disagree totally paddy- sweeney is right- for all corks professionalism -kilkenny in recent years have been more successful and they think are the tiger woods of hurling? and furthermore kilkenny didn't have to trash talk anyone- because Cody wouldn't allow it.
This Cork team are above thier station thinking they have the right to select managers. there are certain individuals on that Cork team who think they are indispensable to the cause and I hope Mc Carthy shakes it up. they want to run themselves and that can't be allowed on any team. As they say the end is nigh for this Cork team.


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