When the Cork hurling team paraded before the National League final the previous May with socks down and jerseys hanging out it seemed a petty protest. Any discontent, said the county board officials, would be quickly forgotten come the championship.
Instead it is Cork’s championship that is quickly forgotten, and the protest is merely the start of the deepest crisis ever to hit the state of hurling in the county. The players throw down their hurleys, leaving the split with the county board as a gaping chasm.
Details of the fallout start to appear from the players after their exit from the championship at the hands of Galway. Goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack and the 1999 All-Ireland winning captain Mark Landers begin a series of revelations that come as a shock not just in Cork, but to hurlers all over the country.
The players, who are seeking better conditions, refuse to play or train with the county again until the dispute with the county board is resolved. Central to the crisis is what the players perceive to be the poor treatment from the county board. The players demands include having their own doctor at all Championship and League games, resolving disputes over travel arrangements and providing players with free gymnasium access. There are also complaints about the warnings sent to younger players that joining the Gaelic Players Association will jeopardise their chances of playing with the senior team.
Running parallel to the dispute is the search for a new Cork manager. Bertie Óg Murphy announces that he is stepping down in late September after one year in charge, although he refuses to get drawn into the controversy over the treatment of players.
At the same time, the unrest of the players is compounded by the decision of the Cork selectors not to follow Murphy’s suit. Three of the four selectors, Pat McDonnell, PJ Murphy and John Meyler, remain in place as they are half-way through a two-year term while county champions Blackrock have yet to officially reaffirm county secretary Frank Murphy as their nomination to the selection committee.
The players previously state, however, that they never saw it as their right or function to interfere with the choosing or workings of selectors or managers for hurling in Cork.
The strike is eventually resolved and all the demands are met.
(From “Cork hurling in deep state of crisis” by Ian O’Riordan, The Irish Times, November 30, 2002)