OVER the past number of weeks the Cork County Premier One and Premier two minor hurling championships have been run off very efficiently by Rebel Óg, the governing body of underage GAA affairs in the county.
In this newspaper, the coverage of the games has been first class, courtesy of Rory Noonan, Éamonn Murphy and others.
It all made for some splendid hurling across the county and it reached a climax last week with the two finals being decided.
Thankfully, with an increase in numbers allowed to attend the games, 200-plus supporters were able to view the proceedings and support their teams.
This observer took himself along to view the ’Barrs and Sarsfields, Premier 1 final at Páirc Uí Rinn last Wednesday night and it provided splendid entertainment for those present.
The game had been heralded beforehand as a potential classic between two very evenly matched teams and whilst the ’Barrs got well clear of their opponents in the second half and had a convincing win in the end, it was still a hugely enjoyable watch.
The ’Barrs were deserving winners and the importance of their win cannot be emphasised enough.
Apart from the last group game victory in the SHC the year was not very satisfactory out in Togher.
There was a new management team in place for the vital win over Carrigtwohill after two earlier disappointing results against city rival Glen Rovers and Na Piarsaigh.
On the night the senior team played some delightful hurling, put up some great scores and whilst the season ended that night in Carrigaline, there was room for optimism going forward going into next season.
Let’s just say if the team and how they performed on that occasion can pick that up again when the time comes, things should be a lot better.
Maybe the positivity that emerged from that game had an influence on the minors and if it did it certainly worked the oracle.
The ’Barrs had gone 23 years without a county minor title and badly needed to arrest that slide.
They had defeated the Glen in the semi-final and to those involved and outside it was very obvious that this was a very talented side.
And so it proved last Wednesday night.
Their hurling at times during the course of the hour was a joy to behold, their score taking at times was simply sublime and right throughout the field the balance was very good.
Those who had been following this championship would have been very aware of some of the very talented individuals in the ranks.
The management team had Briain Hurley at the helm with Jimmy Barry Murphy alongside while Pat Keane and others drove them on throughout the hour.
In the stand great ’Barrs warriors like Ger Cunningham, Charlie McCarthy, Cathal McCarthy, Pat Lougheed, the Harringtons, Donal and Fionán Murray, John Cremin, Paddy Hayes, Donal O’Grady and many more I am sure looked on.
They trailed by a couple of points at the break and at that juncture nobody could have envisaged what was to follow.
The young men from Togher took complete control thereafter, players led by example and the scores came thick and fast; from goalkeeper Dylan McSweeney out, they had players who just took the game by the scruff of the neck.
In particular, you had Ben O’Connor lording affairs in the number six jersey. The people who are involved in reporting and following the games were probably aware of his talents and, for one so young, he looks an outstanding prospect.
Ben Cunningham put seven points on the board from open play while his free-taking was near immaculate too, surely another one for future reference.
Jack Cahalane banged in a brace of fine goals and embellished his status as one of the best, young hurlers around.
In the number 13 jersey you had the energy, ability and scoring prowess of William Buckley.
These are just five players we are mentioning and maybe that’s not fair on the others because this was a team effort in every sense of the word.
Sars too contributed handsomely to making the game such a fine spectacle and no doubt a lot of their side will go on to have long and successful careers too.
But in that second-half the ’Barrs were just immense.
Of course, it’s always premature to be talking young hurlers up too much and there are no guarantees going forward.
How often in the past have we seen good, young players fade out of the picture and caution is always a keyword where they are concerned.
But on the evidence presented in Páirc Uí Rinn last week, there should be no reason whatsoever why a lot of these young ’Barrs players and Sars too cannot go on to forge successful club careers and maybe beyond.
This was a huge win for the ’Barrs as a club and you could see what it meant afterwards around the stand.
Again and to repeat, there are no guarantees but this might well be the tide that lifts many other boats out in the great Togher hurling stronghold.
One didn’t get to see the Cloyne-Russell Rovers combination win the Premier Two title the following night at the expense of a highly-rated Kanturk side and, by all accounts, it was against the odds.
Another Cork great, Donal Óg Cusack, was heavily involved here and again that illustrated how young players will respond when you have these giants of the game involved.
Finally, the efforts of the organisers in Rebel Óg must be applauded too for their efficiency and approach since the outset of the competitions.
In a year like no other, they did a splendid job.