THE hurling and football action in the adult grades has been compelling since the GAA restarted post-Covid.
Without a doubt, the summer schedule, proper preparation free from inter-county commitments, and new round-robin championship format has led to a better standard than we've seen in the earlier stages in previous years.
Injuries in the compacted time-frame have dogged some teams, especially those with dual players, while over-fussy refereeing can also be an issue. The best refs let the game flow, while still retaining control when there's too much pulling and dragging or timber.
At an underage challenge match, last Saturday between Ballincollig and Valley Rovers, the experience of Joe Larkin shone through. He only blew the whistle when he had to and all the U13 lads playing learned a lot about proper, intense hurling as a consequence.
It's a fine line to walk when you're the man in black because you don't want games boiling over but hurling is as much a physical, attritional sport as it is a skillful, fast one. Only the best refs can find the right balance.
It also helps of course if supporters, parents (at underage) and mentors don't get carried away. Having a light touch helps, that bit of humour to alleviate the tension. It's something I saw Jamesie Kavanagh, well-known around the Muskerry division, use brilliantly as well lately.
This weekend is a gap-one for the adult club players outside of the junior ranks and those lining out for UCC or the division. Tonight and tomorrow, the College and Duhallow are out in hurling and football, along with the Beara and Carbery footballers.
The divisional section hurling final, which four-in-a-row chasing Imokilly are seeded into, and football decider are set for next weekend. It'll be interesting to see what line-ups UCC produce, as you'd imagine there won't be too many from outside the county bounds in a position to tog out.
Imokilly are already without the Fr O'Neill's crew and Paudie O'Sullivan from Cloyne, as those clubs are now in the second senior tier. They'll still have a potent 15, with Castlelyons the early pacesetters in the PIHC, helped by Cork defender Colm Spillane's haul of 2-12 in two matches.
There are some great minor games on the horizon as well, as the last round-robin hurling ties will be completed tomorrow, with the football a week later.
In the Premier 1 competition, Ballincollig are facing Douglas on back-to-back Wednesdays and they've the potential to be belters.
The hurling joust is effectively a quarter-final, with St Finbarr's set to top that group and Sars and the Glen through on the other side, though those teams meet to decider who wins their section. Douglas will need to beat Ballincollig in the football and factor in the final score between Glanmire and Nemo, as three clubs could end up on two wins apiece which would bring scoring difference into play.
The U16 P1 hurling is also down to the last four: Midleton take on Ballincollig; St Finbarr's collide with Bride Rovers.
The Barrs narrowly defeated Bride in a cracking Féile final two years back.