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James Crombie/INPHO Kevin O'Donovan (file photo).
# Report
Cork GAA chief hits out at 'false rumours' that aimed to create player-board divide
Chief executive Kevin O’Donovan has delivered his annual report.

CORK GAA CHIEF executive Kevin O’Donovan has revealed his unhappiness at ‘false rumours’ that circulated this year surrounding the county’s senior teams, which he feels sought to create a divide between the players and the county board.

O’Donovan made the point in his annual report ahead of  the Cork GAA convention this Sunday, 11 December.

He referred to the venue controversy surrounding the Munster football semi-final against Kerry when the Cork squad insisted the game take place in Páirc Uí Rinn, while also speaking about  fallout from the hurling side’s championship exit at the hands of Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Thurles.

“One disappointing aspect which was common to both the “Páirc Uí Rinn or nowhere” saga and the aftermath of the hurlers’ defeat to Galway were the false rumours pedaled
regarding the position of the county officers on various matters.

“Unfortunately, such mischief making was clearly designed to create a divide between players and the Board and certainly had no motive in the betterment of Cork hurling or football.”

O’Donovan believes the stance the footballers adopted was understandable.

“For the Cork senior footballers, a dreadful start to the year with injuries and poor performances didn’t bode well for a successful season. However, renewed momentum and perhaps a less difficult programme of games against fellow relegation strugglers towards the end of the league, culminated in a stunning last-gasp victory over Offaly in Tullamore.

“This guaranteed Division 2 status as well as participation in Sam Maguire. Of course, the run-in to the championship was dominated by the saga regarding the venue for the
Munster semi-final versus Kerry. Much commentary surrounded this matter. Suffice to say that the position of the players, which was fully backed by the county board was understandable, as was the desire of the Munster Council to provide appropriate venues for all games under their jurisdiction.

“Ultimately, the fixture was a success, with an attendance of 10,000 ensuring a sufficiently hostile atmosphere, and in turn, a much improved performance from the home side. While defeat meant entry to the qualifiers, it was heartening to see the Cork senior footballers once more connect with their supporters.”

the-cork-team James Crombie / INPHO The Cork football team before the Munster semi-final against Kerry. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The Cork chief also spoke of the outlook facing the county’s hurling side.

“While many felt that the subsequent championship exit to Galway showed a return of previous failings, anyone present in Thurles that day would have to hold a different view. Quite simply, the courage and fight shown by players on a day when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, showed that this group clearly has unfinished business.

“With the continued integration of the All-Ireland minor and U20 winning sides of recent seasons, the graph is still upwards for this group and if the spirit and aggression shown in patches can be sustained throughout a full season, success may not be so far away, after all.”

O’Donovan also spoke about the debt from the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The legacy debt from the stadium continues to stand at over the €30m mark.

Club gate receipts topped €1.5m for 2022 and there was an overall end of year surplus totalling €679,590.

But bank debt from the stadium redevelopment remains at €21,056,000 and money owed to Croke Park by the Cork county board is €7,763,722.

The 2022 turnover for the stadium was just over €6m as it hosted concerts by Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Westlife this year, along with last month’s historic rugby fixture involving Munster and a South Africa selection.

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the-teams-take-to-the-field Ben Brady / INPHO The Munster and South Africa teams take to the field. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

“After three years affected by both the failure of the original pitch and then Covid-19, the stadium finally began to fulfill its potential in 2022,” writes O’Donovan.

“The visits of Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Westlife brought a whole new audience to the stadium, while the historical opening for the Rugby match between Munster and South Africa showed how much things have changed. Our sincere thanks to Central Council for granting the necessary authority.

“While we will continue to do ‘friendly battle’ with our colleagues in other sports for the hearts and minds of the next generation of players, our real obstacles are those faced by boys and girls who don’t in fact play any sport. Dropout, the sedentary nature of modern life and obesity should keep one awake at night far more that the image of an oval shaped ball bouncing around the Páirc.

“Away from the games, Páirc Uí Chaoimh continues to face a challenging future. Despite healthy profits this year, the legacy debt from the stadium redevelopment continues
to rest well above the €30 million mark. Predictions that the stadium would open debt-free now seem like a distant memory and all efforts must be made to clear the
shortfall by those now charged with its management.

“Passing the debt onto the next generation doesn’t bear thinking. Therefore, an action plan continues to be implemented in conjunction with all associates and we will be calling on members to support all commercial aspects under the Cork GAA umbrella. The sooner the stadium is placed on a firm financial footing, the sooner we can move on to future projects, for example, the much-required training centre for our teams.

“What is also certain is that All Ireland winning teams will represent the best opportunity that the stadium will be filled more regularly. Therefore, members can be assured that nothing is being short-changed on the playing side, despite the mortgage overhang.

“That said, the provision of training pitches continues to present challenges, hence the requirement for some blue-sky thinking on same.”

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