One would almost feel guilty writing anything about actual sport at the moment considering the unspeakable tragedy and grief which has befallen Clonoulty/Rossmore, Tipperary and the GAA community at large following the passing of 24-year-old Dillon Quirke during a Tipperary SHC encounter at Semple Stadium on Friday evening.
Only weeks ago, the young defender was being name-checked as one of the few bright sparks in what was a dismal season for those who were then Colm Bonnar’s charges.
When news broke of the horrorific events in Thurles, I was making my way home after Dunboyne were rightly stuffed by an impressive Summerhill outfit in the first round of the Meath SFC. Feelings were fluctuating between upset and anger and a modicum of embarrassment.
Not at being beaten by Summerhill. They are one of the traditional powers of Meath football and always deserving of the utmost respect. Did they get it? The jury is out. Greatest angst centred on the limp nature of the rebuttle forthcoming.
However, there will be other days. It was only a game of football. Placed against what unfolded in the Premier County, it ranks around trivial at most.
Sadly, ample personal evidence can be recalled of the Association being at its best when its people are its people are in greatest need. Which has again been the since the awful events of Friday evening.
It’s somewhere in the GAA psyche, though, to carry on. To keep things as ‘normal’ as can be. They will scarcely ever be that awful word in Clonoulty or Tipp again, mind you. However, from the ashes of unspeakable grief can be hewn an undefinable strength. An unstoppable momentum.
Every sliotar they hit will have Dillon’s name on it, every bead of sweat expended will be him coarsing through them. We can but empathise, sympathise and think of them.
Against such a backdrop, even contemplating the happenings in the opening fixtures of the Meath football championships feels a little off. Yet there is something strangely comforting about having them to turn to. For when something like what has happened down south occurs, the whole country – whether GAA or sporting inclined at all.
Just seven short days before now, this space was emotionally overflowing with pride and joy at the latest amazing achievement by the Meath lady footballers. It will be admitted that there was then a deep sadness about the departure of the incomparable Vikki Wall for Australia.
Not for a second out of an ounce of bitterness or ill will. Merely from knowledge of the incalculable loss she will be to our club as player, leader and inspirational role model. But it’s all irrelavant compared to events in Clonoulty/Rossmore. Anyone who either knows me or has been reading my material for long enough will know how important sport – and GAA in particular – is to me.
That said, yours truly feels particularly awful admitting that the beginning of the local club championships was, to some extent, being clung to as a means of dealing with some of the dung life has flung in this direction of late.
Perhaps some will understand. At a local level, greatest frustration steams out of knowing the exceptionally talented group of players we have at our disposal, yet wondering is that ability being fully maximised.
Now, the season is far from over yet, but, unless there’s an upturn in attitude and application fairly lively, the winter could be a very long one indeed. Especially in light of recent developments pertaining to other teams in the club.
Still, even from a purely sporting perspective, no matter how bad you might think things are going from the perspective of your own, there will always be somebody a little worse off. A case in point over the course of the past weekend was the plight of Clonard GFC.
The Kildare-border club are one of the great survivors of Meath GAA. As a neutral, you often wonder how they manage to do it. Yet they always do. Not only that, but they have produced some fine footballers over the years too.
On Friday last, however, the blue and gold were forced to concede a walkover to Drumconrath in the second round of the JFC B, their second such misfortune this season, meaning they are now automatically eliminated from the Championship for the season.
This is probably stating the blindingly obvious, but, their reason for not fulfiling the fixtures was inability to field a team. Doubtless there are numerous reasons for that, but you have to wonder could the GAA at central level do more to assist clubs in similar situations.
For you can be sure Clonard are far from alone in their current predicament. There is one obvious reason which people will signpost as to why the wheels have come off the wagon but that would surely be to over simplify things.
Likewise, what would mostly be the preferred solution to such things – clubs amalgamating – is, to my mind, taking the easy way out.
To their credit, Clonard officials pointed out that extensive work is being done at underage level and they seem assured of a bright future.
It’s most unfortunate to see any club in the situation which occurred this week, with the greatest of respect, nothing really matters. It’s all only a game. RIP Dillon. God Bless Clonoulty/Rossmore, Tipperary and the Quirke family.