Páirc Uí Rinn has to be the choice for Cork's championship clash with Clare

Giving up home advantage not an option, especially with the way the Munster SHC fixtures have panned out
Páirc Uí Rinn has to be the choice for Cork's championship clash with Clare

Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork in action against Cathal Malone of Clare during the Munster SHC game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2018. The venue isn't an option for the counties' meeting this year. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

From time to time, I share the slow progress of the ongoing quest of mine to cover a game at every GAA club in the county.

While the tally had become almost stagnant in recent times, in the wake of the return to action in the autumn of 2020, Kilmacabea and O’Donovan Rossa were ticked off to bring the number to 87, with 67 still to go.

I had played at both venues in the deep distant past and that was also the case for number 88, which was added last Saturday as Hamilton High School beat Tralee’s Mercy Mounthawk in the quarter-finals of the Corn Uí Mhuirí in Bishopstown.

It was back in latter part of 1997 that the Kilbrittain U14s for 1998 had the novelty of a trip to the city – we even took a bus, very rare for us in those days – for a football challenge match against the Town, strange as they were a few grades above us and football was a distant second to hurling in terms of priority for most in the club.

My main memory was a clash of heads with team-mate Séamas O’Brien that left him concussed but, as he was our best player and HIA protocols were two decades away, he was of course kept on the field.

Anyway, it was 15 years before I was back there – the press night before the club’s first appearance in a Cork SHC final, taking on Sarsfields – and, now, nine years on, finally attending a game at the impressive 4G pitch. As a Hamilton alumnus, I was pleased with the result too but strived to ensure that my reporting was objective.

Without having kept a proper tally, I would estimate that Páirc Uí Rinn has been the venue I have attended most for matches across 14 and a half years of GAA journalism. And I sincerely hope I will be there on May 15 this year.

With Ed Sheeran playing at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the end of April, the pitch there will unfortunately not be ready for the clash of Cork and Clare in the Munster SHC in the middle of May.

Now, whatever your feelings on that – on the one hand, you would say that the main stadium’s function should be to host Cork games; on the other, there is a large debt that is only going to be reduced with strong commercial performance – the notion of ceding home advantage fully is something that should not be entertained.

After hosting Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on April 17, Cork sit out the second round of games, meaning that the Clare fixture falls between visits to Waterford and Tipperary. While there may be a push to put the game in Thurles to allow a greater number to attend, one would imagine the team and management would prefer to play at a venue where they regularly train.

Cork like going to Thurles, but Clare are well familiar with it, too – and recent defeats in Cusack Park show how much of an advantage home comforts can be.

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