‘They must be at communion now?’
‘Communion!? They’re barely finished the first reading!’
At 12.20 the priest in West Knockbride, Co Cavan, finally called a halt to 11.15 mass, before sauntering out to complete the Blessing of the Graves. 12.20. And Knockbride with a junior championship match at 2pm.
Imagine Jim Gavin and the lads at a Blessing of the Graves an hour and half before Dublin played a championship match!
Out of the corner of your eye you could see a few of the Knockbride players nipping off after the second decade of the rosary and who could blame them? I doubt many had packed chicken and pasta provisions, alongside the holy water, when they left the house about seven hours earlier.
Anyhow, it would seem they managed to make their match against Drung on time and they kindly ensured that any fans who arrived late didn’t miss out on the drama, as Knockbride bagged 1-1 in injury time to rescue an unlikely draw.
On Saturday night, patrons in Kingspan Breffni were treated to a humdinger of game as last year’s senior champions, Ramor United, pitted their wits against the 2015 winners, Kingscourt Stars. While the match still had a group stage feel to it - given we'd had our senses tortured by the earlier events in Croke Park - it would do your heart good to watch something which was a contest at the very least. To tense up with anticipation as Kingscourt’s Joe Dillon leapt around the place, like a salmon who’d been bitten on the arse, or to enjoy the battle as county teammates James McEnroe and Pauric Faulkner duked it out for midfield supremacy.
The Tyrone and Dublin hammerings were undoubtedly abysmal affairs but those who sat at home mourning the death of football were overlooking a most important aspect.
Gaelic football – and indeed hurling – still beats strongest away from the TV screen. Its true power is not in the headline-grabbing events at headquarters but in the clubhouses throughout Ireland and further afield.
Ramor United’s one point victory was We Are Cavan’s first live commentary match of the weekend. On Sunday they had broadcast five more matches, watched by thousands across Facebook Live and Mixlr, with fans tuning in from New York, Sweden, Brittany and other such exotic places. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if one day soon, we see some lad post a hello from aboard the International Space Station.
All-in-all there were 20 championship matches played in Cavan alone this bank holiday weekend. Around the country there were many many more. Some were entertaining, some were undoubtedly awful but every one of them was ‘a big day for the parish,’ as they say, and a chance to come together as a community.
With over 2,300 GAA clubs in Ireland, and barely more than 90 pieces of silverware up for grabs, we won't all end the season happy but we will journey towards Ithaca together. And while the All-Ireland series hopefully provides us neutrals with some entertaining distraction, it is the craic, the excitement, the heartbreak and the delight of the club championships which will keep the heart truly beating.
That and the fact we’re a whole year away from another blessing of the graves in Knockbride.