WE have to sympathise with Conor McCrickard.
The St Finbarr’s hurler was driving towards the Blackrock goal in the PSHC on Sunday when he lost his hurley in a ruck but emerged with the sliotar still in his hand.
Too far from goal to kick the ball in a scoring attempt and too far from a team-mate for a handpass, the former Down underage footballers showed quick thinking and quick feet by soloing it, football-style, bringing him closer to goal. The only problem? He was operating under the same misapprehension that I and no doubt a few others have been – to do so in hurling in illegal and referee Colm Lyons awarded a free out.
Just to be sure that that was the offence, we checked with Colm and he clarified that rule 4.7 (rule 4 deals with technical fouls) says: "To release the ball with the hand and catch it without playing it with the hurley.”
So, just in case anyone else has heard the urban legend that you can essentially ‘play football’ with the sliotar when you lose your hurley, now you know.
Unfortunately for the Barrs, it wasn’t the only thing that went against them on Sunday as Blackrock’s 10-point win in the final Group C game meant they exited before the knockout stage for the second successive year.
For the neutral, though, the weekend provided some compelling action as the denouements in the five hurling grades made for some great drama. The Barrs might even have made it through despite defeat if Charleville had held on for victory against Erin’s Own in Ballyclough – such a result would also have saved the North Cork side from the relegation play-off, where they will now face Carrigtwohill.
The Glen Rovers-Newtownshandrum game was, like the Rockies-Barrs clash (shown on TG4), effectively knockout and one would question why that wasn’t streamed live rather than the Sarsfields-Midleton game, which was between two sides already qualified. Perhaps the easier availability of facilities at Páirc Uí Rinn was a factor.
The nature of the three-game group programme means that teams eliminated might not necessarily bemoan the last match, but instead latch on to a misstep earlier in the campaign. For the Barrs, the second match, where they led Erin’s Own by 10 points but were held to a draw, will certainly rankle, though St Catherine’s in intermediate A will certainly focus on Saturday’s loss to Ballygarvan – having won their first two games, they could afford a four-point defeat but lost by five and missed out to Ballygarvan and Milford on scoring difference.
And spare a thought for Russell Rovers in the lower intermediate hurling grade. Last year, they reached the county final but that was delayed until August just gone. They lost out to Castlemartyr and since then they suffered three defeats in the 2021 LIHC, meaning they must face Grenagh in the relegation play-off.
By contrast, Castlemartyr moved up to intermediate A with the wind in their sails and Saturday’s win over Mayfield meant they topped their group and, in addition, took one of the automatic semi-final spots. Similarly, another East Cork side, the 2020 junior A champions Lisgoold, breezed through their lower intermediate group and they too have the luxury of sitting back and waiting in the semi-finals while the quarter-finals are going on.
The only problem, such as it is, with trying to follow so much simultaneous action is that match updates might not always be easy to find on social media channels. Those in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday benefited from Peter Dennehy’s half-time updates on the public address, while the final score from the Charleville-Erin’s Own game was announced as the end approached, killing any lingering Barrs hopes.
Unfortunately, the other announcement at half-time, that the two sets of substitutes were to leave the pitch as they were not allowed to puck around, was not taken on board.
This weekend, the permutations junkies will have more of the same as the football championship group stages come to an end, with Douglas-Nemo Rangers and Éire Óg-Newcestown the stand-out clashes at premier senior level.
Here’s to plenty more drama and twists and turns.