The rebel spirit has also led to much success in the area of Sport, and especially in the traditional Gaelic Games (Hurling, Gaelic Football and Camogie). With a total of 113 All-Ireland honours on all levels of Hurling and Gaelic Football, Cork is in fact the most successful of all the 32 Irish counties in the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Cork is by far the most successful Hurling county and won their 30th All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship in 2005. The Rebels also won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship six times and many other GAA competitions.
It is therefore a shock for most GAA fans to see Cork missing from this year's sporting contests. The reason - well known by now in Ireland and discussed over and over again by numerous pundits - is the strike of the county's footballers and hurlers, which is two months old today.
The dispute between the players and their County Board (which organises Gaelic Games in the county as well as the county's teams for regional and nation-wide competitions) began with the resignation of Cork football manager Billy Morgan on November 8th over the prospect that he was not allowed to pick his own selectors.
This seemingly minor disagreement became very quickly a major point of contention in Cork and the Gaelic Players Association backed the Cork players in their threat of going on strike over the matter.
The County Board ignored the thunderclouds on the sporting horizon and on November 21st it appointed Teddy Holland as the replacement for Billy Morgan. This led to even more anger among the players, who now gave notice of their strike intentions and indeed stopped playing for Cork on December 10th.
After Christmas the crisis escalated further, when the players refused to participate in the Waterford Chrystal Cup (Jan. 9th) and Teddy Holland declared he would not resign (Jan. 23rd).
On January 30th more than a hundred club delegates voted unanimously in support of Holland at a meeting of the County Board, but to no avail. The players remained stubborn and on strike.
Last Tuesday even Taoiseach Bertie Ahern got involved and called on both sides to end the dispute and seek a compromise solution. Many hours of talk have by now taken place behind closed doors, but so far to no avail. Many thought that at least by the start of the National Hurling League - which was today - the players would come out and play (because otherwise they could force suspension and relegation). But no, there is neither an end to the strike, nor a solution in sight. Both sides have dug in their heels and the boys from the rebel county are still not playing ball.
Earlier this afternoon around a thousand people attended a march in support of the players through the streets of Cork. The march was also attended by Cork senior footballer Noel O'Leary and senior hurler John Gardiner. And tonight the Cork senior hurlers and footballers are meeting again to discuss the latest developments in their dispute with the Cork County Board.
I am not a sports pundit, and certainly no soothsayer. But it would surprise me if the Cork players would give in soon, after having stood their ground for so long. The County Board - also made up of stubborn men - can form many committees and hold talks as long as they please, but in the end there is no sport without the people playing it. So in the long run the County Board has the much weaker position in the dispute and will eventually have to give in somehow. If the officials can manage to keep their faces (and positions) remains to be seen.
The overall looser is already the spirit of the GAA, together with the good will that goes a long way. And many disappointed fans are losing out, too, of course.
To paraphrase a well-known satirical poem by Bertold Brecht: Perhaps it might be best if the County Board dissolved the sport and looked for another...
The Emerald Islander
(who lived in Cork and has still friends there)