Cunningham saga leaves Galway senior hurling on the ropes

Seán Moran from the Irish Times stable of journalists is one of the most erudite and thoughtful people writing about GAA.

He signed off his column in yesterday's paper as follows: “After what has been Galway’s second most successful season in the past 10 years, Galway hurling is back in default mode: gloom tending towards despair.”

The whole Anthony Cunningham saga over the past few weeks, nay months, has been handled badly on all sides. 

And Cunningham's statement last Monday evening read like one of a man slamming the door and not ever intending coming back into the house.

Considering all his effort and commitment over the past few years and an association with Galway hurling that goes back for more than 30 years, it was a disappointing and sad way for his tenure to end.

Few of us are privy to what exactly are the grievances of the players, and no doubt if they voted in a secret ballot by 26-6 last weekend to express no confidence in their manager, those grievances are not ones that they consider trivial or minor. 

That said, it was quite sad to watch the pictures of a very dejected Cunningham speaking to Marty Morrissey on the RTÉ One Sports news earlier in the week. 

Where to now for Galway hurling?

After watching that clip it was hard not to ask aloud, where now for Galway hurling?

In case we forget, it is only 13 weeks since the epic and enthralling win over Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final and all seemed relatively rosy in the garden. However the second half collapse in the final against Kilkenny seemed to have reopened old wounds.

And with some very experienced and capable organisers in the vanguard of the players wanting change, it was only a matter of time until things came to a head.

In hindsight perhaps Cunningham and his management team should have seen the writing on the wall and walked the plank earlier, but he was ratified by the county board and was entitled to stay in-situ if that was his decision.

The bottom line though is this: if any manager has almost totally lost the dressing-room, in any code, it is almost impossible to regain it, and once the vast majority of players wanted Cunningham out, it was a question of when, not if.

The players too will have to look at themselves hard in the mirror over the coming weeks and ask if they have acted appropriately and in a fair and reasonable manner.

Player power is fine, but who would be jumping up and down now to take over this particular group of players considering how they have conducted themselves over the past few weeks?

Cunningham’s statement contained the following hard hitting views.

“I consider this a kangaroo court decision led by a core group of players. I believe that the players are misguided in that they are not taking the views of their county on board. They, through their actions, have shown scant respect for, and loyalty to the goodwill shown them by supporters, clubs and County GAA committees and management.”

Those are harsh words and the bottom line is that there are no real winners in this. 

All over the country GAA people are asking the question, what is going on in Galway hurling?

There are no easy answers and finding a way forward from this embarrassing debacle will not be easily found. The hurling board is culpable too in how they let things go this far.

The situation should never have been allowed to escalate and cause the damage and hurt that it has.

The old saying about not washing your dirty linen in public rings true.

The players have pushed this agenda, as is their prerogative, but they now have to deliver on the field of play too. And fast.

Unless they win an All-Ireland in 2016 or in the near future or a Leinster title at least, Anthony Cunningham and his supporters can say, “ye got rid of me, but ye did not do any better after I was gone.”

The road forward for Galway senior hurling looks like it will have a good few twists and turns before we can think of days like 1980, ’87 and ’88 again.

Gloom tending towards despair.

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