IT’S that time of the year again, a time to reflect on some of the achievements of the season that is still running on the inter-county front at minor and U20 level.
Domestically, it was unfortunate that the Cork County Board did not get to conclude all their championships and will have to wait until 2021 to get that done.
However, the ones that were concluded were done so in a manner which showed up the County board in a very good light in a season that nobody in their worst nightmares could have envisaged.
The flagship competition, the Cork County SHC was an outstanding success and its new group stage format brought a far more competitive edge to all the games.
As in every competition, there were winners and losers, those who had the most positives to take away and those who struggled to make the desired impact.
At the end of it all, Blackrock bridged a gap of 18 years to regain the title and they were fully deserving winners, maybe even the long wait in Church Road having been worth it.
So it’s fairly obvious that the bulk of the accolades for the season will go to Blackrock personnel.
For this observer, one game in their run to the title stands out, their county semi-final clash with UCC.
It was a game for the ages, a game that yielded 63 scores over the 80 minutes of hurling that were played and at the end of it all just a point kept the teams apart.
The final scoreline read, Blackrock 3-26, UCC 0-34, yes on 60 different occasions the posts were dissected for points.
Shane Conway from UCC ended the day with a haul of 0-14 but still ended up on the losing side.
There were times over the course of the game when UCC had the momentum but the newfound character of the Rockies players ensured they responded every time. In the end the strength in depth of the Rockies made the difference, with lethal substitutes coming in from the bench.
One of them, Tadhg Deasy fired over five points, young gun Robbie Cotter secured another vital one as finally the UCC challenge just fell short.
The Rockies posted the game’s last four points and that was that in a contest that will long be remembered for all the right reasons.
There were quite a few individuals who impacted for their teams over the course of the season but eventually the choice had to be a Blackrock player.
And there were quite a few, Alan Connolly really came to the forefront with his ability to post big scores from play and from the placed ball, he made a huge contribution.
Stephen Murphy at wing-back was ultra-consistent while Michael O’Halloran and Daniel Meaney shone brightly too at different times.
But, at centre-back, Niall Cashman was superb and very consistent, marshalling the defence in a very confident way.
He delivered some long-range points too and those scores were often inspirational. He was recently called into the Cork panel on the back of the season he had with the new county champions.
Ritchie Kelleher did another fantastic job in getting the Glen into another county final and his record in Blackpool speaks for itself. He ended up in the loser’s dressingroom but this man’s contribution was in no way diluted because of that.
The UCC management team of Tom Kenny, John Grainger and Dr Paddy Crowley did great work too and illustrated again what this championship means to that great hurling academy.
But our choice is another Rockies man, Fergal Ryan.
Through thick and thin he stuck with this team and a lesser man might have walked away after the previous year’s big disappointment in losing to Newtownshandrum.
But he stayed with it, learned from the losses and was an inspirational figure on the line.
One of the great Rockies servants on and now off the field.
In the year that we had and the games having in the main being played behind closed doors, the championship was a huge success for all the stakeholders.
The County Board ran it off to perfection, the clubs made huge efforts and we got some terrific games.
In fact, it was one of the best championships for years and it was a shame that the new champions did not get an opportunity to represent Cork in the province.
As always, there could be only one winner but we got the first all-city final for a long time and that brought an impetus of its own.
You would probably have had 15 or 20,000 present in a perfect world and it showed up city hurling in a very good light again.