It says in the papers and on the podcasts - muted criticism but euphoria on Leeside

Wed, Oct 25 2017

City celebrations continue unabated. Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

All I can say [looks at camera] Stephen Kenny we’ve won it... your behaviour over the last year has been despicable… people talk about Stephen Kenny’s a nice guy? Don’t want people like that in the league.”


John Caulfield certainly let his title rival have it following Cork’s draw with Derry which was enough to confirm the Leesiders as the 2017 Premier Division Champions. Actually, no he didn’t.


But the actual author of the above rant, Stuart Byrne, suggested in his Mirror column last Friday that Caulfield and/or some of his players should have had a “list of people to cut through on live TV,” much like Stuey himself had done so famously on the last day of the 2006 season.


Thankfully, JC restricted himself to praising Dundalk’s recent run and his own backroom team. Caulfield also acknowledged that things had been difficult as the Leesiders stuttered recently while noting that City had managed to take six or more points off every team in the division bar Bohemians.


Stuey Byrne wasn’t just promoting on-air smack talk for the sake of it. The ex-Shels midfielder was concerned that the conclusion of the Premier Division title race had been far from the leading story on TV3’s sports news on the morning after the match and contrasted it to his own playing days, when, in his recollections, Shels' league championship victories got top billing.


Assuming that Byrne is correct, two caveats still need to be entered: Firstly, TV3 had the rights to show LOI highlights in, say, 2004 and 2006 and this, understandably, may have made the independent broadcaster more inclined to highlight Irish football stories in their news output.


Secondly, the Cork - Derry match and John Caulfield’s post-match interview were the only sports story on RTÉ’s lunchtime news of the following day. RTÉ are, of course, our current rights-holder.


The much-maligned national broadcaster’s coverage was sadly out on its own on this occasion. Rights-holders or not, there is no excuse for the fact that TG4’s equivalent lunchtime bulletin ignored the LOI altogether.


A particularly risible omission when you consider they managed to cover ladies GAA player Cora Staunton’s proposed transfer to Aussie Rules, President Higgins canvassing for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid in Australia, and an in-depth preview of three cross-channel teams involvement in the Champions League. The last mentioned being TG4’s idea of cursaí sacair apparently.


Had John Caulfield been minded to rip into a few doubters on air then its not inconceivable that Stuey Byrne would have vied with LOI Weekly’s Johnny Ward for top spot.


Byrne has argued repeatedly, both in the Mirror and on Soccer Republic, that Cork’s recent poor form was diminishing their achievement. Stuey rolled back on this criticism somewhat in the column mentioned above, asserting that “it’s time people realised Cork are worthy champions and the focus of their ire should be on teams that didn’t do the business.”


It's a sentiment that was echoed by both Brian Kerr and Johnny McDonnell when speaking to Johnny Ward on LOI Weekly. The ex-Faroes duo did indulge themselves with several ‘in our day’ tangents but their praise for Cork’s season in general and the recent performance against Dundalk in particular was somewhat valid.


Ward, unlike Byrne, stuck to his guns, with the full horror of Cork’s post-Maguire league stats providing heavy artillery support for the advance of his argument.


To be fair to Stuey, he didn’t completely abandon his previous position but simply bemoaned the fact that the drawn-out nature of Cork’s stumble over the line lacked a sense of euphoria and left him underwhelmed. A less valid point than his criticism of the team’s form in my view.


Whatever about grumblings of the Dublin media, there was nothing muted about the celebrations on the Turner’s Cross pitch or the response of the Cork-published Irish Examiner. ‘De Paper’ produced a 12-page supplement last Friday to celebrate City’s return to the summit of Irish football.


Liam Mackey’s interview with John Caulfield contained a couple of interesting insights: the Cork manager admitted that going into the recent showdown with Dundalk “anything was possible” and that he had tried, and failed, to bring in a like-for-like replacement for Seanie Maguire.


More fascinating still were the behind-the-scenes insights provided by Joe Leogue’s feature on club operations manager Éanna Buckley and the article by ex-FORAS chair John O’Sullivan.


Both pieces referenced the Cork City’s journey from near-extinction to the present day with Buckley outlining how the club functions on a day-to-day, season-to-season basis and O’Sullivan describing how off-field activities and financial matters interact with on-field progress.


I suspect that these two men, and Supporters Direct Europe CEO Niamh O’Mahony who wrote a fans-eye paean to the new champions, were more euphoric than underwhelmed. And rightly so.