It was back in October 2007 that I made my GAA reporting debut – Blackrock beating Castlelyons in a Cork SHC relegation semi-final in Fermoy.
So nervous was I of missing a detail, my 12-year-old brother James was brought along as a spotter, marking off scorers on the programme so that I could cross-reference later on. We survived, thankfully.
The following week, Cill na Martra came back from the dead to draw with Carrigaline in an intermediate football semi-final in Carrigadrohid. As the games and venues mounted up, it occurred to me that there was the possibility to complete a set, namely covering a match at every club ground in Cork.
As anyone who has ever embarked on a quest knows, there have to be some ground rules:
The one potential kink is the fact that county championship games are played at neutral venues and it’s rare for clubs close to the edges of the county to fit as potential sites for matches.
So, while central places like Cloughduv, Ovens, Bandon and so on have been visited on numerous occasions, it’s unlikely that somewhere like, say, Adrigole or Mitchelstown would be called upon to hold a county championship match.
Thankfully, secondary schools matches between Cork sides and opponents from other counties, or Munster or All-Ireland club championship ties have helped to cross off places like Baile Bhúirne, Youghal and Charleville.
A good start
Naturally, the tally rose quickly in the early years but of course, as new venues were ticked off, the pool of places left to visit grew smaller and the opportunities weren’t always plentiful.
In March 2018, Glantane – home of Kilshannig – became number 84 on the list but I was back there for a second visit before number 85 (Carbery Rangers) was reached in August 2019.
Then, in September 2020, two West Cork venues, Rossa Park in Skibbereen and Kilmacabea’s home ground in Leap, were added in the space of a week.
Both were venues I had graced during my playing career and it was a similar story with number 88, Bishopstown, in January of this year.
It was back in the 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.
This was 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.
This Sunday, the needle moves to 89 as Castlehaven meet Newcestown
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 the Cork SHC final, in 2012 taking on Sarsfields – and, now, nine years on, finally attending a game at the impressive 4G pitch.
Making it better was the fact that my alma mater, Hamilton High School, beat Tralee’s Mercy Mounthawk in the Corn Uí Mhuirí (Munster post-primary U19½AFC) quarter-final.
This Sunday, the needle moves to 89 as Castlehaven meet Newcestown in the Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC in Rossmore, the headquarters of Kilmeen (football) and Kilbree (hurling).
It leaves 66 still on the to-visit list but there is the best part of three decades in which to tick them off. No point getting it all done too quickly, where’s the fun in that?
You’re there, watching something on television and there’ll be a flashback – ’25 Years Ago’, the caption on the screen will tell us – but for some reason everybody is dressed like it’s the late 1990s rather than the mid-1980s.
Yes, getting old can be disconcerting, with the sands of time shifting beneath your very feet.
Rugby jerseys are a great example of a lot of change in a short period of time. Cotton and wing collars were the styles of choice for so long, but the garb employed now is very much performance-geared, with little or no excess garment that an opponent can grip.
There may be no need for the excessively-designed patterns on them, but that is seemingly what sells.
The thing about fashion is that it tends to be somewhat cyclical, though, and the portents for the near future seem to be quite good if Leinster’s new jersey for the coming season, made by Adidas, is anything to go by.
Two strong shades of blue with a nice dash of gold trim and little in the way of superfluous additions bar the nice addition of the coats of arms of the 12 counties in the fabric – squint and it could be the mid-2000s.
Where the best lead, the rest tend to follow – hopefully they’ll have set a trend.
On the field, the pre-season action is ramping up ahead of the beginning of the URC season in a fortnight. Before we know it, the Champions Cup will be up and running and we’ll be worrying if Ireland are in danger of playing too well in November and peaking too soon for the 2023 World Cup.