Some Pucking Craic in the Alps
There were a few quare looks from locals in Kirchberg, Austria venue for the 2018 Today FM Topflight ski extravaganza, as men and women from the 4 provinces headed into the Alps bedecked in their intercounty GAA colours armed with ash sticks.
We were trying to explain what Poc Fada meant but it was hard enough for the poor Austrians to understand the english with an Irish accent, and admittedly a few had to be convinced that it wasn't a term of abuse being thrown at them by the visiting holidaymakers.
Those up on their ancient Irish history and folklore would have known that the camán and sliothar are embedded in our DNA along with the story of Setanta killing the hound from before history was even written down.
History was made in the 2018 staging of the event with camogie participants outnumbering their male counterparts.
The best of the hurlers out of Portumna's Canning family (according to Ollie himself) was this year's VIP guest and camogie winner Niamh Richardson from the Murroe/Boher club in Limerick struggled to contain her emotions when she caught sight of the impressive winners trophy as you can tell here.
Delight for the Boher woman who has a new claim to fame and is parking the previous one which involved putting Dancing With The Stars performer and former All Ireland winning Cork senior camogie captain Anna Geary in her back pocket for a full match. (Note this has not been independently verified, but we are sure Niamh wouldn't pull the wool over our eyes.)
Under the watchful eye of Clare woman and tournament organiser Edwina Gore, Ann O Driscoll from Moate in County Westmeath drove it further than Ollie Cannings ceremonial starting puc to take third, and Rachel Phelan from Ballyhale nearly won it, but no one could get to within an asses roar of the camogie winner.
Corann Ian Ó Dhemsigh for the hurling title is staying in Galway this year, but not in Carnmore.
The groupies were quick to offer chomhgairdeachas to Patrick Kelly from Salthill in Gallimh, who took the 2018 winners medal with a great 70 yard strike. Despite a stewards inquiry over heating the sliothar on the radiator of his hotel room beforehand, the result was allowed stand.
There was heartbreak for defending champion Paddy O Connell, for whom this year the one man one strike rule didn't work and he didnt quite connect sweetly enough to secure his third title in a row.
It was clear the standard this year was going to be high when Cathal McKeown from Cullyhanna in County Armagh set a great distance to beat with his opening shot, despite telling me in advance that his only previous on pitch experience was playing the first half of a junior b game once because numbers were low.
There was a good showing from Louis Everard from Moyne Templetuohy who held the lead before third placed Michael Kearney from Roscommon stepped up to nudge in front but the bearded Premier man soon got over his disappointment joking with friends after the event with a series of great one liners that didn't get approved by our solicitors in time for inclusion in this article.
Michael Kearney quietned a few of the sniggering smart alecs from the more traditional hurling countys as he called on his experience as a Nicky Rackard winner and having played Shinty for Ireland to drive it high into the Austrian sky.
He watched the ball fly through the air like a parent willing their child into taking their first steps.
It looked like Kilkenny man Martin Holohan from Castlecomer might make up for Brian Cody's recent Walsh Cup final defeat to new nemesis Davy Fitzgerald when he hit the front but Patrick Kelly ended the contest when he stepped up.
Unusually for the Cats, the Kilkenny man was happy enough with the runners up spot but any medal is probably highly prized on noreside right now.
Many of the participants were realistic enough to acknowledge the only All Ireland titles they would be in contention for would be for alcohol consumption, but on public health and safety grounds thats unlikely to be added to the 2019 Today FM itinerary.
My favorite claim to fame was from Stephen O Sullivan who was an unused sub in the 1992 North Kerry under 12 hurling championship final.
Despite this photo suggesting other wise, Stephen was not injured in going for gold.
Well done to Today FM videographer and shooter extraordinaire Peter Cooney who has both captured the essence of the event and armed himself with a few useful hurling phrases for when he finds himself in the company of any 'fans of the small ball' in future.
Snaps by official photographer to the Poc Fada tournament Peter Chatham of Topflight who might have a full time career in photography in the offing.