Cork footballer Michael Hurley has praised the GAA for putting in place an inter-county training ban so as to give clubs exclusive ownership of the summer months.
Hurley says he has spent more time with his club Castlehaven in recent weeks than he has done in the past four or five years.
The West Cork side made a winning start to Group B of the Cork Premier SFC on Sunday, overcoming local rivals Carbery Rangers. Hurley, with six points from play, was the standout performer at Clonakilty by some distance.
The post-lockdown inter-county training ban has proven a mightily contentious issue since its introduction, with the GAA refusing to provide insurance cover for county get-togethers until mid-September. The GPA weighed in by asking for this latter decision to be reversed despite acknowledging in a separate utterance that collective sessions should not be taking place in the first instance.
Hurley, for one, is delighted the clubs have been given a free run at the summer
“It is just absolutely brilliant to be back playing competitive games, and what better way to start than with a local derby. Just to be back playing with the club is extra special. We have had more time training with the club this year than we have had the last four or five years.
“You are not being pulled and dragged,” Hurley said of not having to juggle club and inter-county commitments.
“A few weeks ago when the GAA did come out, they kinda put a bit of a law in place that county players actually aren’t allowed to train. I think that was a brilliant idea.
“But just to be back playing football after everything that has happened, we are just delighted.”
Prior to Sunday’s West Cork derby, Hurley had not played a competitive fixture since being introduced late on against Derry on March 1 in Cork’s final Division 3 league outing before shutdown. But there was certainly no element of rustiness to his play at Clonakilty, the pacy corner-forward finding the target as early as the 18th second.
He had three points to his name by the ninth minute, finishing as the game’s top-scorer with 0-6 from play. Even allowing for Luke Connolly’s 2-3 in the Nemo colours on Friday, Hurley’s performance was, arguably, top of the list from a Cork perspective over the weekend.
“Enjoyable is the first word that would come to mind after getting back out there for a competitive game. It was just a brilliant occasion.
“The last few championship games between ourselves and Carbery Rangers, we did reference them before the game. We certainly owed Ross one or two, but we didn’t come here to settle old scores. It was a new day, a new season. We will now look forward to the next two games and hopefully, we will be okay for the year.
“If we all just look after our own patch, the hope is that the games will continue right through the year. In general, sport isn’t life or death either, it is just to make sure that we are all fit and healthy is the main thing.”
Having started just one league game for Cork earlier this year and having also been used off the bench throughout the 2019 All-Ireland championship, the younger brother of Brian is no doubt keen to try and put forward a case in the coming months for a starting berth with Cork.
“The win is the most important thing,” came his reply when asked if he was happy with his early-summer form, “but if you play well, personally, it’s just a bit of icing on the cake, so yeah happy with that.”