Denis Hurley is 89 not out in his Cork GAA club venue quest

Meeting of Castlehaven and Newcestown on Sunday in Rossmore will tick another one off the list
Denis Hurley is 89 not out in his Cork GAA club venue quest

Castlehaven's Michael Hurley looks for a way past Colm O'Donovan of Newcestown in the 2021 Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC game in Clonakilty. Picture: Denis Boyle

Fermoy was the venue for my GAA reporting debut for the then- Evening Echo.

It was October 7, 2007 and I already had two soccer assignments under my belt, with Carrigaline United beating Everton in the Munster Senior League and Avondale United seeing off Lakewood Athletic in the FAI Intermediate Cup.

Still, it’s easy to know when there’s been a goal in a soccer match and who has scored it, whereas I carried a fear that I might miss something huge in this, an SHC relegation semi-final between Blackrock and Castlelyons. So it was that my brother James was inveigled into coming along to provide a second set of eyes. Four years later, he would espy an opportunity for a soft week of transition year work experience by shadowing me and was even given free rein with a Sciath na Scol report, but he didn’t catch the journalism bug.

Castlelyons midfielder Leo Sexton heads for goal against Blackrock in the 2007 SHC relegation semi-final in Fermoy. Picture: Larry Cummins
Castlelyons midfielder Leo Sexton heads for goal against Blackrock in the 2007 SHC relegation semi-final in Fermoy. Picture: Larry Cummins

Few, if any, of the other patrons in Fermoy that day will remember it – Alan Browne scored 2-4 as the Rockies won but it’s unlikely those scores edge out the many others for his club or county in terms of affection. Castlelyons had to play in the relegation final but they beat Douglas – who returned to senior two years later – and so those matches won’t have lingered long in their memory, either.

FIRST STEP

For me, it was the first step and the first venue. I can’t exactly remember when it occurred to me that there was an opportunity to cover a match at every club ground in Cork but now, 14 years and 11 months later, 87 more have been ticked off and on Sunday, Rossmore will become the 89th as Castlehaven face Newcestown in the Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC. The real sign that I’m getting old is the fact that my journalistic debut is much closer to my last playing appearance in Rossmore – an U16 championship defeat in 1999 – than it is to reporting bow at the home of Kilmeen and Kilbree.

Each of the three years since the introduction of the round-robin format have seen the West Cork rivals drawn in the same group, with a different venue on each occasion – Rossa Park in Skibbereen in 2020 (number 87 in my quest), Clonakilty last year and now Rossmore. Indeed, their previous two meetings in the championship prior to that, 2012 and 2013, saw them clash in Dunmanway’s Sam Maguire Park and Castletownkenneigh respectively.

The relative proximity of the two clubs and the surfeit of suitable options in Carbery means that it’s not too difficult to find location for such a meeting, and geography does of course play the main role when Cork County Board’s Competitions Control Committee (CCC) sits down to sort the fixtures.

The advent of the group stages imposes a bit more of a challenge – 26 football games in each of the three rounds and 30 hurling – and that can call for a bit more creativity. 

For instance, last Sunday, city sides Glen Rovers and Na Piarsaigh met in the Imokilly division as Carrigtwohill was the chosen site – Páirc Uí Rinn would be the obvious choice but that was hosting the St Finbarr’s-Sarsfields clash and the final-round fixtures in each grade are played at the same time.

It was a similar situation on Friday night, as Carbery clubs Kilbrittain and Barryroe played at Courcey Rovers’ home in Ballinspittle, which is in Carrigdhoun (Courceys were once a part of Carbery, but that’s another story). 

Timoleague is between Kilbrittain and Barryroe – you can’t go from one to the other without passing through the village – but as Timoleague’s Argideen Rangers and Barryroe amalgamate up to U21 as Ibane Gaels, Kilbrittain weren’t willing to accept a situation where some of the opposition were playing at what has been a home venue.

The centrality of places like Coachford, Cloughduv and Bandon means that they will always be venue magnets but then there is also a desire to spread games out, especially when some clubs only have a few potential fixtures to hold.

The quality of the viewing experience is also a factor if a crowd is expected. Rossmore has a generous bank, making for a strong amphitheatrical setting on Sunday, if the weather holds up. The quasi-knockout nature should add to the occasion, too.

And, afterward, the search for venue number 90 will commence - only 66 more left to do.

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