AFTER an incredible 10 weeks of county championship action, we have reached the final day in the nine main football and hurling competitions.
Before somebody sends around the special squad to deal with our noninclusion of the junior A and some junior B championships, can we state that for the purposes of this issue we are just including the competitions organised in their entirety by the Cork County executive?
Just a few statistics from the 10-week journey. In total there were 222 matches played in 72 venues; 67 referees and their accompanying officials stepped up to the plate. There were 549 goals and 6,557 points scored across nine grades in this magical period, it was some shot of flag waving!
Can I request that we park the massive contribution of the players, the team management, the match officials, and participating club officials and just reflect for one minute on the voluntary activity of the personnel from the 72 host venues.
At a low water mark, I would the put the figure at 1,000 people contributing anything in excess of 5,000 voluntary hours.
If we exclude the paid contribution of some organising officials and the remunerated managers, you can add in several multitudes of the above figure to include the contribution of club officers and members of team management.
Now that we are on a bit of a roll, what if we added the figures for other units namely, the eight divisions, the male underage age movement known as Rebel Óg, the Cork Camogie and Ladies Football, adult and underage, for the same 10-week period, at a conservative guess, you could double the above figures.
Nothing short of awesome. It is no wonder then, that this indigenous activity, for many, is such an integral part of our existence!
On Saturday, the posting was another western location, Sam Maguire Park in Dunmanway for the semi-final of the PIFC between Bantry and Uibh Laoire.
I should make you aware, that the inner thoughts were hinting at the Mid-Cork side to continue their incredible run of success.
Over the past two seasons, they harvesting the Muskerry JFC, County JFC, and the County IAFC. No doubt, the absence of Cathal Vaughan, one of their leading flagmen as a consequence of sustaining a broken collar bone in their final group game, was a major blow.
Their opponents suffered a humiliating relegation play-off final defeat to Bishopstown last year and for many, the thinking centred around their ability to stop the slide.
To their credit, they won their group games against Aghada, Castletownbere and Na Piarsaigh and qualified for Saturday's semi-final without going through the quarter-final route.
Their main man Ruairí Deane opened the scoring, and his first-half contribution of five points from play was immense.
After that opener, we were in total admiration of the next score. Uibh Laoire’s Ciarán Galvin won possession and laid it off to Sean O’Riordan who, had he gone for a point, would have won admirers.
Was he almost 40 metres out? He let fly with the outside of the boot. It was just a pity that we weren’t able to view the recording.
It was right up there with any green flag witnessed for quite a while. We got to the break with sides level 1-6 to 0-9. Honestly, such was the entertaining nature of the game, the second half couldn’t commence fast enough.
Four top-quality points shared evenly had the teams level for the sixth time after five minutes.
Liam Kearney pointed and the fancied side were ahead. Goals win games, two of them have won championships, but two in a minute are exhilarating and devastating in equal parts.
Bantry’s corner-forward is Paddy Cronin, a lot of the column’s acquaintances of that name are in the process of becoming members of the free public transport movement, but this version has yet to say goodbye to his teens. He played a beautiful crossfield pass from his corner-forward position which was picked up by a guy who has the appearance of a modern-day corner-back, it hit the net.
I waited for him to reveal his identifying numbers. It was Dara McCarthy with number nine on his back.
The goal wasn’t his only contribution; he had earlier scored a point, not bad for another of the West Cork’s side younger brigade.
The Bantry folk on the viewing bank, had just turned down the volume on their vocal chords setting when the second goal arrived.
The main man, the Beara CS muinteoir, the aforementioned Deane won it, laid it off to a member of an undertaking family, Arthur Coakley, the umpire reached for green, the vocal chord setting is off the scale and Uibh Laoire’s championship dreams are with O’Leary in the grave!
A mortal blow or so we thought.
Four points followed from them in five minutes from four scorers — the first could have been a goal by Chris Óg Jones — the margin down to one. The people from a half a parish and most of them were present were now in charge of the volume button.
A Gaelic football thriller and this was one included a few calls from the man in charge of rule interpretation.
One such decision arrived in the 18th minute of the second half immediately after Iveleary’s fourth point on the trot.
Once again, the ball dropped in around the Bantry square, and so did an attacking player. Blue and red eyes on the referee Alan O’Connor, would we view as many thought we would, the outstretched hands to signal a penalty?
He halted his movement and indicated a free out, now the volume on all the vocal chords, excluding the real neutral, were out of control.
Paddy Cronin, who we were informed, is on a serious soccer voyage and Chris Óg exchanged points, the margin still at one.
Four minutes remaining, the young man with the mature sounding name, turned provider for Coakley and the resulting goal more or less signified the end of the fabulous Uibh Laoire run and provided the Bantry folk with their first county final day out in 20 years.
Our final thoughts on a massive contest, well done to the management of both sides for the front-foot attitude to playing Gaelic football.