Unless there are some Hawk-Eye problems with the video recording demanded by the Guinness Book of Records, the village of Meelin (population 600) is expected within the next fortnight to officially be announced as hosting the biggest hurling match in history.
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín was among those who togged out for yesterday’s event and he was mobbed by autograph hunters, including a family who’d travelled from Scariff and Killaloe and entered the lion’s den with their Clare jerseys on.
Michael MacGrath and his grandchildren Kathy, 10, and Michael Dinan, 7, and their cousins Aoife, 6, and Oisin MacGrath, 7, posed proudly for pictures with the hurling legend, who joked: “They’ve some neck coming here with them on.”
The match started at 12pm, with teams rotating every 10 minutes, as per Guinness Book of Records instructions.
The first score, a goal, was notched up by Shane Carver, 7, who was playing for Kanturk under-eights against their counterparts from Newmarket.
In the next game, Millstreet’s Joanne O’Riordan got in on the act when, dressed in a Cork jersey, she headed out onto the pitch in her motorised wheelchair and took up position in goal.
It may not make the same headlines as when she addressed the UN, but she was nevertheless impressed with the organisational abilities of the people of Meelin.
“This is really class and it gives the village a great name. I’m now an adopted Meelin child,” she said.
Less than an hour later, a big cheer went up when a number of women from the Meelin Active Retirement Group decided they were going to field a team.
The side’s combined age wasn’t divulged, but they were led by a very sprightly Tess Buckley, 88, who admitted she’d never picked up a hurley in her life.
“It was great. I ran around a bit and I managed to hit the sliotar a few times,” she said.
Seeing this, some older men decided they weren’t to be outdone and Tess’s first cousin Pat Burke, also 88, togged out.
“I emigrated from Ireland in 1948 and came back to live in Newmarket in 1973,” Pat said.
“When I was in the USA, I played for the San Francisco All Star Hurling Team in 1959. I can’t remember the last time I played, but it’s well over 40 years ago.”
Anna O’Flynn, meanwhile, had the distinction of being the youngest participant, at just four years old.
“I hit the ball three times,” the proud Freemount girl said.
Former president of the GAA and now MEP Seán Kelly also togged out, alongside ex-Cork and Newtownshandrum great Ben O’Connor.
The marathon match finished at 6.05pm and everybody got a certificate of participation.
The Guinness Book of Records says the previous record was 250.