STOP us if you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating – covering a county championship game in Bandon is always a pleasure.
Sunday saw us posted there for the SFC round 3 clash between county champions St Finbarr’s and Carbery Rangers, with the holders coming through after a tussle which required extra time.
In Bandon, the first floor of the pavilion affords excellent viewing, while the fourth estate found tables and chairs laid out for them along with complimentary programmes. Then, at half-time and full-time, tea, sandwiches and cakes were laid on, all under the direction of the ever-efficient Ber Lucey. In the interests of full disclosure, Ber is this writer’s aunt, but she is that generous to all of the journalists in attendance.
Next Saturday evening sees another big game in Charlie Hurley Park – viewers of RTÉ’s recent ‘live history’ show The Brigade will recall that he was actually from Kilbrittain, but we won’t fall out over that – as Valley Rovers take on Newcestown in what should be another keenly-contested encounter. All being well, we shall be there to document it and fatten ourselves.
Also present at Bandon last Sunday was 96FM and C103’s Finbarr McCarthy, who pointed that the game was the latest in a growing list of fixtures to go to extra time – in previous years, many of those would have been replayed, meaning that the county board is missing out on a sizeable chunk of income.
The news also came through on Sunday that the Cork ladies’ football team were losing to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park. Coupled with the camogie side’s semi-final loss to Galway last week, it means that, for the first time since 2010, Cork won’t be in either of the female senior finals – the last time before that was 2001.
That’s quite a run and, while there won’t be silverware coming south this year, there’s no reason to think it’s the start of a terminal decline, not least because the Cork U16 camogie team won a first All-Ireland title at the grade since the 2003, the year the girls on the team were born.
Next Sunday, it will the turn of the Cork minor footballers to try to bridge a gap – and none of them were born the last time the county claimed the Tom Markham Cup. Incidentally, the last successful Cork captain, James Masters in 2000, is a selector with the current squad (and carried out a similar role with the ladies’ football senior team) and so can hopefully impart some wisdom before they take to the field on Sunday against Galway.
It has been quite the turnaround since the 16-point loss at home to Kerry in their first Munster championship game and Cork’s progress has proven that the change in format this year has been a worthwhile one, unlike the previous system where Munster semi-final losses signalled an end to the year.
Hopefully on Sunday the team can take that final step and round out what would be an incredible year both for them and Cork football as a whole. When the five-year plan for football in the county was launched in January, there was much merriment about the lofty aspirations but, with an All-Ireland U20 title claimed and a minor final reached, those ambitions don’t seem so fanciful now.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for the U20 hurlers, who found themselves blitzed by an early four-goal salvo from Tipperary in Saturday’s final in Limerick. While the footballers gave Dublin a head-start, this was too big a mountain to be scaled and the Premier County added the title to the senior one claimed the previous week.
We can expect proclamations of a Tipp period of dominance, just like in 2020 when they won senior and U21 All-Irelands (and like in 2013, when Clare achieved such a double) but All-Ireland final defeats at minor and U20 need not define this group of players.
The cream of the crop will be given a chance at senior level during the revamped league next year and ideally the best of the best will be pushing for championship spots. As to who will be managing them in that endeavour, well that’s a question for another day.