Last night in Youghal could have been 2002, or 2004. Or 2007. Or 2010. Cork and Waterford were facing off in hurling once again, with all the chips on the table.
Well, not quite all. The match was not between the current squads of well-honed athletes, who were no doubt at home hoovering up protein shakes ahead of their Munster Championship openers next weekend.
This was a reunion involving the teams which had lit up the hurling championships of the Celtic Tiger era.
Cusack, O’Sullivan, Ó hAilpín, Landers, O’Connor, and McCarthy were the surnames studding the Cork lineout — Hennessy, Prendergast, Browne, Bennett, McGrath and O’Sullivan among those
lined up in white and blue.
The game was for a good cause — the Youghal Cancer Support House — and this was reflected in the turnout, over 2,000 people making the trek up Magner’s Hill in the east Cork town to support the venture.
They lined up by the fencing and waited for the men of 20 years ago to come out of the dressing rooms.
When they did it was refreshing, though for different reasons.
Some of the participants — Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, Tony Browne — looked in good enough nick to do a reasonable job for their respective counties next weekend.
(As you might expect, there was a brisk trade in observers saying that John Meyler and Paraic Fanning could do worse than to call on them, with each observer happily deluded that he was, in fact, the first person to think of this cracking one-liner.)
Reassuringly, some of the others looked in good enough nick to do a reasonable job on a snack box or two.
Accustomed as we are to the low body fat on the sportsmen who are usually togged out in inter-county colours, it was a small comfort for the more well-upholstered in attendance, your correspondent among them, to see how unforgiving those jerseys can be to normal human beings.
As a match, it was entertaining, and a good deal less formal than some of those shuddering collisions of a decade and a half ago.
At one point in the proceedings, MacDara McDonncha of TG4, who was providing live play-by-play, sympathised with Dan Shanahan over the PA, saying the big Lismore man would be disappointed with a missed opportunity.
“I’m in here,” said Shanahan, who was just then warming the bench. He hopped out of the dugout and waved up at MacDonncha: “I’m not out there Mac, in fairness!”
The game was lit up by a couple of flashes of skill: Dónal Óg Cusack had, along with Diarmuid O’Sullivan, played an intermediate championship game with Cloyne already that afternoon and showed those in Youghal that his shot-stopping remains sharp.
Shane O’Sullivan, a key man in the current Ballygunner club side dominating the Waterford scene, hit some fine points from long range.
At the end, Cork were ahead according to a scoring system which may have been reliant on the Duckworth-Lewis method beloved of cricket, but that was hardly the point of the evening.
The point was the amount raised by the game for the charity — over €30,000.
“It’s great,” said match organiser and participant Peter Queally of Waterford.
“We’ve had a fantastic turn-out, a lovely evening and a great run-out.
“It was great to raise the money and to do it in a way that lads can meet up and have a chat — like a lot of people, we might only meet at funerals and so on, so this was a great evening.”
In the red and white corner, long-serving medic Dr Con Murphy was at the helm: Did the bainisteoir bib confirm some long-held conspiracy theories about his real influence in the Cork backroom?
“Not at all,” laughed Murphy. “I’m delighted it went off well, that we had the weather for it and a good crowd came.
“It tells you something about the way the two teams saw each other even when they were competing for trophies years ago that there was no problem arranging the match.
“It was a great rivalry but always in the right spirit, and you saw that again tonight.”
In one way or another the same sentiments were being expressed all evening as the crowd streamed back down into the town, fresh from seeing their shared past revived in front of them.