ONLY a day away now from the start of the Cork County hurling championships.
There is always that sense of anticipation before the off, all the participants start with a clean slate and for all of them, hope springs eternal.
It’s a much-delayed start this season but, as they say, better late than never.
And for a while that looked like being the case, no championship at all, a summer of emptiness.
Cork is the last of the Munster counties to get off the starting block, just a week behind the others and we got to have a look at the top game in Limerick last weekend when Na Piarsaigh took on Kilmallock.
Na Piarsaigh went into this game fancied, having thumped their opponents last season.
But it was a different story this time. Kilmallock brought in Tony Considine from Clare to direct matters from the sideline and having worked very successfully with the club before, he was the right man in the right place again.
It was a fine game of ball, Kilmallock recovering from a slow start to manufacture a thrilling win in the end.
The star man was Limerick star Graeme Mulcahy and his 1-4 from play was a major contributory factor in the victory.
It was an unexpected victory for Considine’s team and maybe it should serve as a warning this weekend here on Leeside to teams who would be regarded as hot favourites to come out on top.
With the late start to the championship, it’s a bit of a trip into the unknown.
The Cork SHL campaign came to a very premature end in early spring and because of that there is no sort of a guide that might give greater insight into the championship.
All the teams here in Cork and elsewhere went on the challenge circuit but reading too much into anything that might have transpired in those games can be very misleading.
You might hear afterward that a team was flying in one of those games, such a player had a blinder but you just don’t know until you enter the white heat of championship hurling.
Speaking to Considine in the aftermath of that game in Limerick, one posed the question to him what was it like playing in a near-empty Gaelic Grounds?.
All a bit crazy was the answer with little or no logic being applied.
Surely, he believed, that in a ground like this it could have been a simple task to accommodate comfortably at least a thousand people.
But, as they say, it is what it is and it will be a similar story in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night for the clash of the Glen and Barrs.
To be fair to the players on duty at the Gaelic Grounds, they got on with it and produced a splendid game.
It was the same in Wexford Park a week earlier when St Martin’s overcame Oulart The Ballagh.
So maybe the Glen and the ‘Barrs players will provide us with another thriller.
But surely we could get more into grounds like this for these games.
Let’s be honest, there were probably more people in Penney’s around the country last Saturday than there as at the aforementioned games.
Páirc Uí Rinn will house the other big game in Cork this weekend between Sars and Midleton and it will be another tale of a near-empty stadium.
The point was made recently that all the games should be played behind closed doors until the current situation improves.
The situation presently must be a nightmare for every club, trying to sort out the paltry allocation of tickets that they might have at their disposal.
Anyway, this observer travelled to Grenagh last Saturday evening for the clash of Ballinora and Glenville in the Cork IFC.
It was my first time at the splendid new venue and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
This is a new complex still being developed and the playing facilities are just first class.
The pitch was in pristine condition, there’s a superb viewing area when fans are able to be fully accommodated again.
With all the new restrictions in place, one was apprehensive about the visit but the local club officials under chairman Mick O’Donovan could not have been more helpful and accommodating.
They are currently starting to construct dressing rooms at the venue and when this is all completed plus one or two other matters the Grenagh club will have a place to be so proud of.
Again, it’s a local community effort as it is everywhere else.