THIS is the time of the year when the Real GAA stands up to be counted.
It’s often said that the soul of the association lies among its grassroots, the real volunteers who answer the call every week of the year.
This is very evident if you travel to one of the junior finals that are spread across the landscape at this time.
North, South, East and West, some of the smallest units of the association get their day in the sun in these finals.
Here in the city, on junior hurling final day, in particular, there is always a great buzz, all the more so when you get two junior clubs vying for the prize.
Last Sunday afternoon was one of those days that we craved for all summer long, brilliant sunshine, intense heat and city headquarters in Ballinlough was the place to be.
The pitch was in pristine condition for the joust between Brian Dillons and Whitechurch, the latter seeking their first ever final win in the junior A championship Brian Dillons had been down this road before, occupying the winners podium and dejectedly looking on as their opponents took possession of the silverware.
A huge, shirt sleeved crowd turned up at the great venue with the Whitechurch brigade hoping to be present on a historic day for the club.
They had excelled in the semi-final triumph over Passage and hopes were very high for the process to be taken a stage further.
But Dillons are old hands on days like this, many of their starting 15 having experienced the high of winning and the low of losing.
They had lost the last couple of finals, they had lost a few county finals too in the past when victory should have been theirs There was a real buzz of anticipation as the national anthem was played, it didn’t matter that both sides would progress into the county championship anyway irrespective of the outcome.
For Whitechurch, in particular, a city title would have meant everything to a club that is laying the groundwork for future generations.
Dillons were the better side in the opening stages, had a few good goal chances that were not taken and a few poor wides as well Coming up to the interval they were firmly in control, six points ahead and looking good.
But Whitechurch are well used to overcoming poor starts, they coughed two goals very early on against Passage but reinvented themselves to win out by a point.
Three unanswered points left them trailing by just three as they left for the dressingroom to a great ovation.
Dillons did too and when they came back out it was they who pushed on and the experience of the older hands started to make the difference.
Darragh Brosnan was outstanding in defence, his brother Cillian exhibited his experience to further out.
Tomás Lawrence was absolutely outstanding around midfield, Darragh Rogers posted a few superb points as did that great servant, John Horgan James Feehan was a trojan figure in defence, hugely consistent.
And then there was Cian McCarthy, putting in a huge shift in the number 14 jersey and splitting the posts with five exquisite points.
There was certainly no shortage of man of the match contenders in the blue of Brian Dillons.
Experience on days like this is a mighty ally and maybe Whitechurch did not contain that and the loss of a man in the second-half did not help their cause either.
But they will take loads from the day and they’ll get a shot at redemption in the county championship Dillons will now hope to do what they agonisingly failed to do in 2012 and 2017 when they lost out in the county finals of those years to Kildorrery and St Catherine’s respectively.
They should certainly have won one of those finals if not both and many might suggest that now it could be a bridge too far.
But on last Sunday’s evidence that may not be the case.
There is a lot of backbone and experience in this team, players that know the requirements when you go out into the county.
And this great club has always produced great hurlers With the sun beaming down from the heavens, Ballinlough and the city division did a fine job of hosting last Sunday.
Brian Dillons thoroughly deserved their win, Whitechurch lost nothing in defeat and their day may come too with players like Dylan Burke, Hugh Woulfe, Sean Keane, Padraigh Dennehy and others.
The Real GAA stood tall in Ballinlough last Sunday.