GAA in the time of Covid: Appreciating every minor puck of a sliotar

GAA in the time of Covid: Appreciating every minor puck of a sliotar
Douglas' Daire Burke and Ballincollig's Ryan O'Neill in action in the Premier 1 Minor Hurling Championship. Ballincollig's win sends them into a semi-final against Sars. Barrs and the Glen are on the other side of the draw. Pic: Gavin Browne

EVERY sliotar pucked, football kicked into a net and basketball swished through a hoop is precious these days.

With Covid threatening to shut down sport any day, training sessions and matches are starting to feel like special occasions. They say to play every game like it's your last and right now it could be.

When Storm Ellen battered Cork last week to compound our misery, everyone tried to carry on regardless. Covering Ballincollig's minor hurling win away to Douglas on the Wednesday night in the hours before the full force of the storm swept across Leeside was slightly surreal.

It was the day after the government announced that all sport should take place 'behind closed doors' so hosts Douglas were forced to spot all bar the players and the parents who drove them to the game from attending. The sky was a brooding reflection of the uncertain mood and without supporters, the bite and excitement of such an important contest was absent.

The winners were guaranteed a spot in the Premier 1 minor semi-final, a serious achievement. It didn't feel like championship at times. 

That was through no fault of the young hurlers. Douglas were underdogs despite home advantage yet were within a goal of the Collig after 48 minutes. Only a terrifically-timed Seán Dore flick of the hurley had denied Joel Adeniran the chance to raise a green flag in the first half.

Then Eamonn Keating's side took over, his son Brian nailing a couple of frees after fouls on Tadhg O'Connell and with a five-point advantage, they pushed for home. David O'Sullivan, Darragh O'Mahony and Mark Oldham blasted over some classy points from play.

Seán O'Donoghue, Dylan Ebili and Darragh Keohane had some excellent moments across the hour but Mark Howell, younger brother of former Cork minor Ross, Daire Burke, a go-to hurler for Christians in the Harty Cup, and Adeniran had shone for Douglas.

Ballincollig's reward is a difficult semi-final away to Sars, with the Barrs welcoming the Glen on the other side of the draw. They take place in two weeks, on September 9.

Before then the Village return to Douglas this Wednesday for the last football group game. At the same time, Glanmire take on a Nemo side well beaten in their two matches to date.

Aaron Sheedy, Douglas, is tackled by Rory Hogan and Josh Billinghurst, Nemo Rangers. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Aaron Sheedy, Douglas, is tackled by Rory Hogan and Josh Billinghurst, Nemo Rangers. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Ballincollig already have two victories while Glanmire defeated Douglas. All three clubs could yet finish on two wins apiece which would bring scoring difference into play. The Village have a +24 differential, Douglas are +4, Glanmire -2.

Glanmire got a late goal in their loss to Ballincollig that could yet prove decisive. We'll have our calculators at the ready.

What's certain is, we'll never take our duty as a GAA reporter for granted again. The standard has been excellent across the various grades we've covered since sport resumed. Here's hoping the competitions can be concluded.

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