It's a pleasure to see talented players like Fitzgibbon and Connolly light it up for their clubs

It's a pleasure to see talented players like Fitzgibbon and Connolly light it up for their clubs
Darragh Fitzgibbon of University College Cork in action against Conor Prunty of Cork Institute of Technology. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

THE new championship season began in earnest over the weekend with the emphasis mainly on the big ball game.

There was just one hurling game of note, a North Cork derby in the premier intermediate championship between Charleville and Kilworth and at the fine Kildorrery complex we got a decent game.

In quite a few first-round games so early in the season, the fare on offer can be mundane, certainly not as intense as it used to be in the old days when it was all or nothing, lose and your year was terminated.

The premier intermediate championship has long been regarded as the most competitive of all the championships in Cork with really no outright favourite at the start of the campaign.

Kanturk deservedly won it last season but they were not among the more fancied candidates when it all began. A team can very easily come out of the pack and work its way through the rounds gaining momentum with every passing game.

Charleville were one of those teams to lose out to Kanturk last season, in fact, they lost to them twice. It just didn’t happen for them on both days.

Ben O’Connor is at the helm again this season and obvious lessons have been learned from those defeats.

In any grade of hurling, or football for that matter, the presence of one outstanding individual can make the difference between winning and losing, all the more so in a tight game.

And that is what happened in Kildorrery last Sunday evening, Cork’s hugely talented midfielder Darragh Fitzgibbon stepping up to the plate when the need was at its greatest.

He wasn’t overly conspicuous in the opening half when his team played against the very strong wind but on the turnover, he emerged to play a starring role.

In games like this, there are individuals that you just pay to go to see and when he performs you are uplifted by the experience. It was cold and miserable at the North Cork venue on this occasion and that is exactly what was needed.

Immediately after half-time this young fellow went on a searing run down the sideline, forced his way infield and executed a quite magnificent point. That score alone would have justified the admission fee, it was a gem of a score.

He scored a few more as well, five in total from open play and they were all expertly executed by a player who is surely destined to be a key figure on Cork teams for many a long day to come.

Kilworth just had no answer to him when he moved into this overdrive type of play and, ultimately, he was the difference. You can bet your bottom dollar that when emerging from the ground he was the player that was the main topic for conversation among both sets of supporters.

He did miss a few efforts from the placed ball but it was a very difficult day for free-takers. For this observer, he certainly illuminated the proceedings, just one of those hurlers that you’d travel a long distance to see.

Charleville will be delighted to have got over this hurdle and there’s enough potential in the team to make them one of the more fancied sides going forward. The windy conditions were a factor on the evening, Kilworth availing of it in the first-half to lead by five points at half-time but, at the same time, not making more of the territorial supremacy that they enjoyed.

And once Fitzgibbon got going they paid the price, mustering up just two points in the entire second-half as the young Cork star cut loose.

The previous night in Páirc Uí Rinn, Nemo Rangers began the defence of their Cork County SFC with a very comprehensive victory over a very disappointing Clyda Rovers side.

It was a very lopsided affair and we had another case here of one individual standing very tall.

Luke Connolly was that player for Nemo Rangers and his haul of 1-7 illustrated the vast contribution that he made. Connolly is very similar to Fitzgibbon, hugely talented and with the capacity to lighten up the darkest of proceedings.

Nemo Rangers' Luke Connolly celebrates his goal against Clyda. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo Rangers' Luke Connolly celebrates his goal against Clyda. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

And there wasn’t much more to get excited about here, Nemo sauntering through their first championship game since that awful day in Croke Park against Corofin.

But as they say, form is temporary, class is permanent and Connolly is another of those type of individuals that can make all the difference.

Nemo would have won comfortably anyway but his return was first class.

Going back to the hurling game, we had Conor Lane from Banteer as the man in the middle and for a referee who is much more associated with taking charge of football games, both at home and on the national stage, he did quite a good job.

And, finally, on the subject of the Kildorrery venue. It was in excellent shape after so much poor weather and the majority of the patrons were in under the elements in a fine stand that the club has constructed.

There is a fine walkway too in front of the stand and the pitch itself is wired off superbly.

It is just another example of what the GAA is all about, small rural communities putting their shoulder to the wheel and coming up with a complex that they can all be proud of.

It was a good day in North Cork and that man Fitzgibbon made it an even better one.

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