IT was a very strange four months; four months with no present. We yearned for the future, when the disease would be finally behind us, but the only sport we had on offer was the past.
We can thank our lucky stars for the decades of archives held by the various TV stations, the great books, and the superb stories told and written during the lockdown, as the lack of live sport ensured that sportswriters globally had to think outside of the box in order to keep creating quality copy.
Thankfully, this would appear to be over, at least for now. Soccer returned some time ago, and rugby will be back on our screens in a matter of weeks, but for most Irish people the lack of the GAA summer season has been one of the greatest voids of these strange times.
The inter-county season remains months away, but over the past two weekends, we have got to see, listen to and read about some cracking local GAA matches throughout Cork.
Thanks to RTÉ, TG4 and the Irish Examiner Facebook site we have been able to see matches with our own eyes that unfortunately we are unable to attend at present, and this very publication continues to be a Godsend for those who like to unravel a good match report.
We all just have to accept that this year’s championships are not going to be like any other before them. Played off entirely in the second half of the year, with absolutely no form guide to work off of, it is surely going to be incredibly difficult to predict winners from week to week.
This lack of a form guide and the fact that the inter-county championships are going to be played at a time of year when the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire trophies are normally being paraded up and down whatever fortunate county was lucky enough to win them, means that inter-county managers may have to take an extremely short terms approach in terms of their tactics and team selections.
In other words, current form may have to be backed more vigorously than in normal times. Being patient and waiting for an out of form star player to hit form probably won’t cut it.
The Hurleys, Michael and Brian, were in devastating form, as they led the Carbery Rangers defence a merry dance in Castlehaven’s impressive opening round win in Clonakilty.
Their Cork colleague Luke Connelly scored a crucial 2-3 in Nemo Rangers hard-fought win over Valley Rovers, while his namesake Cathal O’Mahony registered 1-8 in Mitchelstown’s 2-14 to 1-9 win over Glanworth in the intermediate championship.
Donal óg Hodnett impressed for O’Donovan Rossa, after a nightmare year out with a cruciate injury, as he bagged 2-1 in Skib’s rout of St. Nicholas at Brinny, while at Páirc Uí Rinn another player returning from injury hell, the talented Cillian Meyers Murray, clipped four points from play as St. Finbarr’s saw off Ballincollig.
It wasn’t just some of the finest finishers in the county that caught the eye either, with Douglas midfielder Brian Hartnett impressing in his side’s victory over Bishopstown in Páirc Uí Rinn, while brothers Killian and Éanna O’Hanlon featured in Kilshannig’s impressive intermediate victory over Glanmire in Blarney.
That form theme continued into the county hurling championship’s, with Conor Lehane giving a first-half exhibition for Midleton on Friday night, against Sarsfields at Páirc Uí Rinn, before fading in the second half. Given that his consistency has been his main criticism down the years it will not have gone unnoticed.
For Sars, Liam Healy looked every bit an inter-county player, with his 1-7 scored in total, but perhaps the biggest story of the night was the contribution of 6' 7” wing-forward James Sweeney, who caused mayhem in the Midleton rearguard while registering three points from play.
If the Cork management were looking for a bolter for winter hurling they might be well served looking in his direction. Ger Cunningham certainly seemed impressed by Sweeney’s contribution, in his commentary role on the night.
It’d be from left field, but then again, since we are in strange times, perhaps strange solutions are the way to go, and Sweeney would certainly offer something different. Perhaps it would be best to see whether his form holds up over the coming weeks before we start campaigning for his inclusion though.
It will certainly be interesting to see who else puts their hand up in the coming weeks.