MAYBE it was the unexpected, but more than welcome, glorious sunshine that helped generate a feelgood factor about the start of the county hurling championships at the weekend.
There was a definite spring in the step of those clubs who managed to win their first-round games in senior and move directly to round three, by-passing the treacherous second-round series.
From Sarsfield’s and Bishopstown on Good Friday night to Douglas, Blackrock and St Finbarr’s 24 hours later to northside rivals, Glen Rovers and Na Piarsaigh, and Bandon on Sunday, all had one thing in mind... bring on the next game!
Lamentably, though, there’ll be none in May, June or July with August pencilled in for the restoration of hostilities on the basis of Cork qualifying for the business end of the All-Ireland.
Presumably, nobody has tempted fate by asking an obvious question of what happens should Cork step on landmines through the war zone that is the Munster Championship and be one of the high-profile casualties like Tipperary in 2018?
There’s no denying club players will disperse to all corners of the globe during the summer months, especially students, and there will hardly be a club not affected by the great migration, one way or another.
At least, clubs now know what the schedule is shaping up to be, unlike in the recent past as outlined by Glen manager Richie Kelleher after his side’s thrilling 1-17 to 0-16 over a fine Midleton side.
“What I don’t like is playing two weeks after Cork are beaten in the championship. That’s all wrong because you’re getting no time to prepare properly.
“Before you’d be watching Cork play, say on June 6, and if they’re beaten you’re out with the club two weeks later. But, if Cork win, your game goes back and back.
“I’m fine with what’s coming next year, playing a game in April, taking a break and coming back again for August.
“There’s a bit of certainty about it because lads can now book holidays and head off somewhere and I think we’re all happy with that,” he said.
The recent county board vote on the three options available to clubs for the next two seasons resulted in a resounding victory for those in the Option A camp, a game in April and two more in August.
The Glen were one of the most vociferous opponents of Option C, which had more games, but included a couple of without Cork players. That, they said, was a bridge, too far.
“Personally, I didn’t get involved in the county board vote. The club asked me, but I said ‘no’ because our focus at the time was on the Midleton game and all that’s for next year,” Kelleher added.
A whole range of Cork players are back in camp asap to prepare for the opening game away to All-Ireland champions, Limerick, next month.
And on the evidence of their club form, the likes of Darragh Fitzgibbon with 0-14, Conor Lehane 0-11, Patrick Horgan 0-9, Shane Kingston 0-8, Daniel Kearney 0-5 and the heavily marked Alan Cadogan 1-2 appear sharp going into the summer tests.
Former captain Stephen McDonnell made his seasonal debut for the Glen against Midleton and lasted 48 minutes, starting at midfield and switching to wing-forward before being replaced.
“He had an operation on his knee a couple of weeks ago and Sunday was his first game for us.
“Stephen was disappointed to come off, but he tired a bit during the second-half.
“We didn’t think about moving him back to the full-back line to mark Conor Lehane because it would have been a very big ask considering Conor’s standing in the game.
“If Stephen had a few matches it might have been different. It was his first game for us. I don’t know what he’s been doing with Cork.
“It would have been very unfair on the fellow to be just back from injury and mark an inter-county hurler. We’re trying to mind Stephen as well,” Kelleher explained.
Midleton are in round two alongside Newtownshandrum, Erin’s Own and Bride.