A clipboard and waterbottle flying through the air together just showed how much club hurling means

A clipboard and waterbottle flying through the air together just showed how much club hurling means
Kevin O’Sullivan, Fr O’Neills, is held by Jack Buckley, Charleville, at Kilworth in the PIHC semi-final. Picture: Dan Linehan

YOU always get a snapshot of GAA passion at its rawest when the sliotar hits the net at the business end of a tight game.

There are guttural roars from the team who have now grabbed the momentum as the umpire reaches for the green flag. They contrast sharply with the shoulder-slumped deflation of their opponents.

Fist-pumps reign supreme. The supporters jostle and yelp and punch the air themselves: ‘Dowtcha boy!’

That was certainly the case when Charleville’s Darragh Fitzgibbon soloed clear and finished with aplomb to the back of the Fr O’Neill’s net in the Premier Intermediate semi-final.

As I scribbled the details of this game-defining moment onto the clipboard, it flew out of my hands, turned in the air and dropped to the sideline. A guilty water bottle landed next to it.

A tap on the shoulder revealed it wasn’t the bottle’s fault, rather a hugely enthusiastic Charleville mentor. ‘Sorry about that, it’s just it was my son who got that goal’.

Mossy Fitzgibbon was only doing what any father would, celebrating his son’s brilliant play.

The large crowd in Kilworth had got bang for their buck up to that stage, with little between two young and wristy sides in a cracking clash. Fitzgibbon’s goal though was part of a sequence which saw the subsequent PIHC kingpins winning by nine points, 4-17 to 2-14.

Darragh Fitzgibbon in club action. Picture: Dan Linehan
Darragh Fitzgibbon in club action. Picture: Dan Linehan

Mossy – who was a fine player with Milford himself before settling down in Charleville – was caught up by the drama of one of the most entertaining hurling games we attended all year. Sending those match notes flying just reinforced the notion that it’s hard to beat the club game.

Every team wants to make it to the county final – at Páirc Uí Rinn or Páirc Uí Chaoimh – but the earlier rounds in rural venues often provide the best atmosphere.

The hospitality in Kilworth is hard to beat. It’s a club run by men and women that just love hurling and that’s obvious from when you pull up to the gate before a game.

This year I was deployed to the new Páirc quite a bit, where the bulk of the senior hurling games took place. It can be a bit cold though, both in terms of atmosphere and temperature, for a regular match even if it’s terrific to see club hurlers and footballers getting their chance on that stage.

Newtown's Tim O'Mahony climbs high to win the ball in the Páirc. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Newtown's Tim O'Mahony climbs high to win the ball in the Páirc. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

And given the money pumped into its revamp and the controversy attached to it, the more it gets used the better.

Páirc Uí Rinn is actually a brilliant venue for supporters, notwithstanding the obvious issue with parking, because there’s a covered terrace as well as ample seating and plenty of space for kids to bang sliotars off the walls. There’s always a bit of craic there too with Bernard Corcoran, Paul McCarthy, Derek Connolly and the lads.

They represent the best of volunteerism, often forgotten about when the more negative aspects of Leeside GAA are being discussed in light of the vast overspend on Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Along with Kilworth, trips to Bandon, Meelin, nearby Ovens, Castlemartyr, despite the apocalyptic rain, and Ballinlough provided some of my highlights across 2018.

Carbery Rangers' James Fitzpatrick bursts past Ballincollig's Noel Galvin. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Carbery Rangers' James Fitzpatrick bursts past Ballincollig's Noel Galvin. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Two of the best team displays in the football championship came in Bandon courtesy of Carbery Rangers and Castlehaven in dismantling Ballincollig and Nemo respectively, yet neither were crowned county champions.

That honour went to St Finbarr’s, kings of October for the first time in 33 years, though Duhallow pushed them all the way in a pulsating SFC decider. Steven Sherlock led the line with aplomb for the Barrs and John Kerins’ emulating his late father was as special as the emotional scenes that greeted the final whistle.

The Barrs John Kerins and Colm Scully celebrate. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
The Barrs John Kerins and Colm Scully celebrate. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Many of the headlines when to Ian Maguire and rightly so. He was their captain, talisman, ball-winner and ball-carrier from the Barrs midfield.

For some, the dominance of Imokilly in the senior hurling championship was a negative but their retention of the Seán Óg Murphy cannister shouldn’t detract from a very lively September and October. The divisional team are stacked with classy hurlers but they play with an appealing swagger and always on the front foot.

Seamus Harnedy and Paudie O’Sullivan followed up their 2017 heroics but another series of sizzling scores and assists, while Bill Cooper, who got the nod ahead of Harnedy for the Rearden’s Club Hurler of the Year, and Colm Spillane were the immovable additions we expected them to be. Credit must go to the likes of Ciarán O’Brien, Mark O’Keeffe and Shane Hegarty, the lesser lights that caught the eye.

Imokilly’s Shane Hegarty scores a goal against Midleton. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Imokilly’s Shane Hegarty scores a goal against Midleton. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Barrs-Douglas was a belter, with Alan Cadogan on fire but still losing in his only championship outing of the year against a very dogged Blues unit. Midleton were runners-up but only after three gutsy victories over the Glen Rovers, Newtown and the Rockies got them to the final, while Conor Lehane’s dazzling burst of 1-3 from play in 10 minutes against the Glen was electric.

There were worthy winners, such as Cill na Martra and Fermoy in the lower grades of football, but some bitterly disappointed losers too. St Michael’s have been ultra-consistent in the PIFC but beaten in the 2012, ‘15, ‘17 and ‘18 finals.

Courcey Rovers’ young and brave team made the premier intermediate championship and league finals but lost both by the minimum and for good measure their U21s were edged out by Ballincollig in the second-tier final, after extra time. They’d a memorable run, without getting any silverware for their efforts.

Ballincollig made great strides on the hurling front, capturing intermediate and U21 trophies, along with more from U12 up to U16. And there’s no better feeling than when your own club is successful!

Celebration time for Ballincollig U16 players Killian Lee and Josh Ambrose. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Celebration time for Ballincollig U16 players Killian Lee and Josh Ambrose. Picture: Denis Minihane.

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