IT may only be the first week of January but a new GAA inter-county season is already upon us.
John Cleary’s senior footballers and Pat Ryan’s hurling equivalents got their first opportunity to don the Cork jersey in 2023 this past week.
Will either manager and their backroom teams have learned much from facing Kerry in the McGrath Cup and Munster Hurling League in the first week of January?
Difficult to say but nowadays, every kilometre, GPS reading and statistic garnered from even a semi-competitive encounter is inputted, stored and analysed.
As for Cork GAA supporters and members of the media, any opportunity to watch the county’s football and hurling stars, albeit in pre-season, is welcome.
With so many National League, provincial and All-Ireland championship games crammed into the first half of the year, avoiding injuries will be John Cleary and Pat Ryan’s number one requirement over the next four weeks.
Cleary made reference to the fact the Cork footballers could play 14 times in 21 weekends between January 28 and June 18 during a recent interview.
It may only be the first week of the New Year but a successful Cork football or hurling season could see a player active for both county and club between now and the last weekend of October.
Everyone wants more games, action and drama but at what cost to GAA players?
POC FADA There may have been little or no action on Cork’s GAA pitches over the Christmas period but that didn’t stop clubs raising funds and celebrating an important tradition.
Poc Fada or ‘long puck’ is a tradition that, if nothing else, people out into the fresh air and away from the Turkey and Ham remains.
An opportunity for club members both young and old to meet up and blow away the cobwebs of the festive season is as welcome as the laughs generated by wayward pucks into ditches and dykes.
A quick glance of recent Cork GAA, LGFA and Camogie club’s social media account activity underlines the huge numbers that continue to take part in annual Poc Fada events.
2022 participants included former Taoiseach and current Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin at Nemo Rangers’ annual Ger Kiely Poc Fada.
Na Piarsaigh hurling, football and camogie club was another to attract huge numbers to the Commons, Fairhills, and included Longest Poc and Bridge Loft competitions.
Admirably, many Poc Fada events held within the county bounds are now used to raise funds for local charities. Carrigaline GAA is a case in point. All proceeds from the Carrigdhoun club’s New Year’s day endeavours were donated to the Shine Centre for autism.
The good people at Carrigtwohill GAA used their juvenile club Poc Fada to raise funds for Carrigtwohill Meals on Wheels.
Lisheens House benefitted to the tune of 900 euro from west Cork club Ballinascarthy GAA’s St Stephen’s day efforts.
We live in a time of spiralling senior and underage inter-county setup running costs.
So it is uplifting to see annual traditions like Poc Fada bringing Cork GAA club members and non-members together and giving back to their local community.
Long may the tradition continue.
MESSI In terms of 2022 sporting highlights, away from the GAA pitches, how refreshing was it to witness a generation of young schoolboys and schoolgirls transfixed by a diminutive Argentinian at this winter’s World Cup in Qatar?
Lionel Messi made an otherwise intolerable tournament held against the backdrop of controversy, FIFA idiocy, homophobia and the deaths of migrant workers somehow seem magical.
The 35-year-old belied his age and a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in Argentina’s opening game before finally lifting the famous golden trophy.
Those of us of a certain vintage remember all too well the late Diego Maradona and the summer of 1986.
That summer, Maradona, the quintessential diminutive Argentinian, guided his country to World Cup glory against the backdrop of Mexico’s magnificent Azteca Stadium.
How many children (just like we did in the summer of 86’) immediately ran outside and attempted to emulate Lionel Messi’s shoulder-drops, feints, turns and deft finishes? How many of this year’s Santa letters were headlined by a request for the Argentina jersey with the number 10 and Messi emblazoned across the back?
Despite all its off-field controversies, the World Cup retains its magic and continues to inspire thanks to generational talents like Lionel Messi. Kids need heroes and sport stars to look up to.
Nowadays, there are few better to fit that particular mould than Messi.
Yet, we finish on a sad note with news that one of the greatest ever footballers to lace up a pair of boots went his eternal reward before 2022 became 2023.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, won an unprecedented three World Cups, transcended his sport and became Brazil and football’s first worldwide icon.
An older generation will recall Pelé and Brazil’s glorious coronation at the 1970 World Cup held in Mexico.
The Brazilian icon was part of a majestic team that lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for a third time.
Adults, no matter what their age, need heroes and sports stars to admire as well. From the 1958 World Cup onwards, there were few better individuals to fit that particular mould than Pelé.
So, make sure to enjoy every minute of watching and cheering on your local and international sporting heroes over the next twelve months.
Happy New Year.