SINCE 2008, an annual winter duty of your correspondent has been as a contributor to the Cork GAA Yearbook, the end-of-year review of the Gaelic games year on Leeside.
Generally, the yearbook takes care of itself in terms of content, with looks back at the seasons of the Cork inter-county teams and all of the club championships as well as a few features enough to more than fill the allocated space.
It must be said that all of the county board PROs we have worked with in that time — Ger Lane, Tracey Kennedy, Edmond Forrest, Donal Leahy and current incumbent Joseph Blake — have been great to work with, with each putting their own stamp on the publication in terms of articles to focus on aside from the championship reviews.
An example from this year’s one is a piece with Urhan, Beara and Cork legend Con Paddy O’Sullivan, who played football for Cork for a decade before achieving the unique distinction of serving as a steward for 50 years at the Athletic Grounds, the ‘old’ Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the new stadium.
We’ll try not to spoil too much of the interview but it’s worth airing a tale he told about the late Christy Ring, with whom he became friends while working at Whitegate and living in Cloyne.
“In 1958, there were three of us from Beara down there and we had to get back for a semi-final, we were playing Macroom in Bantry,” Con Paddy remembered.
“We asked Christy for a lift but he was heading somewhere else. At the end of the field, he spotted a broken hurley and he caught up the handle part of it. He said: ‘Look, put that into the top of your bag and go up to the cross — I’ll bet you that nobody will pass you.’
“We did and we were hardly there a couple of minutes before a man stopped, he was coming from Churchtown South. ‘Are ye going hurling?’ he asked and so off we went, into Cork. That was the quick thinking of Ring.”
We said above that, generally, the yearbook takes care of itself (well, in terms of what must be done — actually doing it leads to long bouts of self-doubt but things do always make their way on to the pages).
This year, of course, was different, in case you needed reminding.
While there had been some championship action, only three county competitions were finished as the seasons of the Cork U20 hurling, minor hurling and minor football panels were and are in stasis.
As with so many things, the solution was in the wisdom of crowds. During the long period in which there was no GAA action at all, the association showed itself to be the strongest community organisation in the country, with practically every club undertaking some fundraising for deserving local causes.
Those clubs are celebrated in the yearbook, along with those who managed to carry out developmental works despite the various handicaps in their way as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
It was yet another example of how collective potential can be harnessed and the number of submissions received for the yearbook was probably only a fraction of the actual work that went on.
Nevertheless, the tales are heartening and underline just why the GAA is so special. The hope is that next year will be more of what we’re used to — ideally with a Cork captain on the cover, lifting a national trophy — but the inclusion of club achievements is likely to be a fixture in those pages.
Huge credit must go to Richard Smithers of Allied Print for his outstanding work in putting the whole thing together in as efficient and understated manner as you could wish for, while contributors Rory Noonan, Finbarr McCarthy, Mary Newman and John Tarrant also deserve large chunks of gratitude.
Ordinarily, each club’s allocation would be collected at the annual county convention at the beginning of December but of course you can’t pass a book to someone over Zoom or Microsoft Teams, so sorting the channels of distribution is yet another challenge but rest assured it is one that will be met and dealt with so that the yearbook will be available to all as usual.