Hope of a beautiful summer gives all GAA supporters belief

Hope of a beautiful summer gives all GAA supporters belief

As per every year, the inter-county GAA championships officially began with a whimper last Sunday, in Gaelic Park, New York, writes Peter McNamara.

Yet, for supporters all over the world the juices are starting to simmer. Memories both ideally forgettable and beautifully unforgettable are evoked, stored from previous summers.

Hope of a beautiful summer gives all GAA supporters belief

For me, Cork’s success in the All-Ireland SFC of 2010 will forever be parked in the latter category.

And it was on that occasion that a prior recollection, less cheerful, came to mind.

In fact, it was the memory of the morning of Sunday, August 20, 2006, All-Ireland semi-final-day and I was leaving for Dublin, alone.

The belief had been drained from all of the others, friends and family members, after wasted trips to Croker in 2004 and 2005. However, belief still existed and so I ploughed a lone furrow to headquarters.

The crowd from across the border had demolished Cork at the same stage 12 months previous but this time it would be different and I refused to miss what promised to be a momentous day in Cork football.

Ye know yerselves, the whole ‘just in case’ thought-process.

However, that trip turned out to be just like all the rest.

Another opportunity to make it to an All-Ireland final. Another opportunity missed.

Kerry won 0-16 to 0-10 and I made my way back to Leeside even more downtrodden than the year before.

It was a long trip home that day, too, probably the longest trip home after any defeat suffered, or at least it felt like that.

When David Coldrick blew the final whistle in Croker on that memorable September Sunday in 2010, I vividly remember recalling that afternoon four years earlier.

The eyes began to well up, pathetically. It had all been worth it in the end.

All the heartache suffered, all the near misses, gone forever, erased from the memory bank for good.

The overriding feeling when Coldrick finally ended the years of agony was that of utter relief, however.

People were as mentally drained in the stands and on Hill 16 as the players were on the field.

It had been a slog.

Year after year of expectation had taken its toll and the outpouring of raw emotion all over Croke Park was there for all to see seven years ago.

A project, years in the making, had eventually paid the ultimate dividend.

Cork were finally All-Ireland senior football champions.

The wait was over and of all the All-Ireland victories I have been fortunate enough to witness back as far as 1999 when our hurlers defeated Kilkenny, this was by far the sweetest.

To see Graham Canty, the man who Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh described in his final All-Ireland broadcast as the ‘greatest Cork footballer of the past 20 years’, lifting Sam Maguire is an image that will stick with every Cork supporter for a long time, probably forever.

The Bantry Blues man, along with Nicholas Murphy and Anthony Lynch, in particular, will be forever remembered as Cork footballing legends regardless of result that day in 2010.

However, it just felt right that those players will always be able to look back on their inter-county careers and have a Celtic Cross to show for their relentless commitment to what was beginning to look like a lost cause for a time.

Such an ideology would be applicable to every member of the panel.

There was a sense of humility among that group of people that was second to none.

Their dedication alone to GAA in this county should always get the recognition it was for so long overdue.

And that includes the nay-sayers within the county.

They took all the unwarranted criticism with a pinch of salt and ended up having the last laugh anyway.

The character that they built up having soldiered together for so long shone through in that second half against Down and each and every one of them showed an unwavering desire to get over the line, to refuse to accept that defeat was an option this time.

And in some respects that relentless drive and motivation overawed Down into eventual submission even if the concession of late scores made life unnecessarily uncomfortable.

It could be argued that the final few moments of that final were a microcosm of all the trials and tribulations suffered by that team.

They put themselves in a position to finish with a flourish and yet nearly ended up staring into a replay, or worse still, another crushing defeat, just like the seasons before them.

Yet, above all else, Cork illustrated that they learned from those frustrating experiences and channelled the hurt in such a way as to ensure sealing the deal that time would be the only outcome.

After Benny Coulter pointed to narrow the gap to a single point, Leesiders were looking through their fingers, those that could look, that is.

And as soon as Down gained possession from Alan Quirke’s kick-out, it felt like we had began to play out the closing stages in slow motion until Cork forced that all-important free which the exceptional Daniel Goulding stood up to take.

All everybody wanted was for the ball to go dead, at worst.

It didn’t but seconds later it mattered little as 20 years of hurt translated to unforgettable scenes of wild and emotional jubilation.

Realistically, adding further All-Ireland title-winning memories as a supporter of the Cork footballers is, it seems, lightyears away at present.

Yet, and this applies to every GAA supporter in the land, there is always that hope your county can produce a season for the ages.

We’re all guilty of it. We all appreciate how outlandish a mindset it may be.

Nevertheless, at this time of the year, everybody, for a split-second, dares to believe in the virtually impossible.

The likes of Tipperary, Kilkenny, Dublin and Kerry folk will have aspirations that are a little more grounded in the real world than others.

However, we all know there was even one Sligo supporter last Sunday wondering if Mayo could be felled in the Connacht SFC semi-final.

It’s madness, really, but then that’s exactly what sport is, isn’t it?

They say it’s the hope that kills you. That’s the beauty of it though, the beauty of summer.


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