Watching Ross and Ilen slug it out was a throwback to some golden championship memories

Watching Ross and Ilen slug it out was a throwback to some golden championship memories
Picture: Denis Boyle

THE championship conjures up many childhood memories.

In my mind, no doubt influenced by nostalgia, all of the games were played in superb conditions, something in stark contrast to the horizontal rain which characterised the journey west to watch Carbery Rangers and Ilen Rovers in Castlehaven last Sunday.

James Fitzpatrick tackling Tom Bushe. Picture: Denis Boyle
James Fitzpatrick tackling Tom Bushe. Picture: Denis Boyle

The summers back then were full of such games, helped by Kilbrittain and Carbery doing well in their respective intermediate and senior grades.

Saturday evening itineraries – more so than Sundays, for some reason – generally involved my father and I heading off to what seemed like far-flung destinations, though of course they don’t seem so remote now.

Coachford was a regular haunt, as was the old pitch in Cloughduv – the site of Kilbrittain’s epic first senior win, against Sarsfields in 1996.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh was for special occasions, like when Carbery got to the county final in 1993, losing to the Barrs, and ’94, when they won.

I don’t think I was at Kilbrittain’s IHC final loss to Youghal there in 1988 but I still remember the flag my mother made for the ’89 loss to Valley Rovers, a yellow blanket married to black corduroy.

The first big game in Páirc Uí Rinn was the ’93 final loss, again to Youghal, but finally the breakthrough came against Ballincollig in 1995 in the Park.

Ballincollig taking on Kilbrittain in 1995.
Ballincollig taking on Kilbrittain in 1995.

It was an era before drinks manufacturers started mass-selling 500ml plastic bottles, but extra-large Club Orange cans of that quantity were available at the chippers.

Perhaps tellingly, my future roots as a writer rather than a player were laid in the fact that I would stand and watch for the hour rather than bring a hurley for a puck-around, as so many of my peers did.

An April start now means that it’s only natural that the elements would play a part in making life difficult for the players. At least Castlehaven’s grounds at Moneyvollahane provides a comfortable site for a game in poor weather, rather than having to stand on a bank, wrestling with an umbrella. Like a lot of other clubs, the blue and white seats in the Haven’s stands came from the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh and are arranged to spell out ’Haven’.

That they were able to keep the cost of construction down by availing of direct labour from club members speaks to the ingenuity which is almost essential at grassroots level in the GAA – other sporting organisations could certainly learn a lesson or two.

The Haven themselves will have to negotiate round two of the county SFC this year, having lost to Fermoy in their opener last Sunday week.

It’s the first time since 2006 that the Castletownshend/Union Hall club have been beaten in the first round, an incredible run of consistency.

In previous years, those draws for the second rounds of the various championships would have been made at the same time as the first-round draws, generally at the annual convention in December.

However, this year, the second-round draws are paired with those for the third round and will take place at the county board meeting at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Tuesday, May 28. The games will then be played in August.

For those teams beaten in their opening games and waiting to get back into action, it means a strange situation of having more than a month to train or play league games, without knowing who they will be playing, or when. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it might help to reset after their defeats, but it will no doubt feel unusual.

Elsewhere, this week sees the second round of fixtures in the first group-stage phase of the Munster MFC, featuring Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

Clare and Tipp had wins over Limerick and Waterford respectively last week and their clash in Ennis could effectively prove to be the decider. The top team in the group then progresses to a second round-robin section, with Cork and Kerry, and the top two in that then meeting in the final. 

With the previous system impacting negatively on Cork, they were often left on the same side of the draw as Kerry, losing in the Munster semi-final with no safety-net, whereas a first-round defeat might have left them with a better chance of making the final, ensuring a place in the All-Ireland series.

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