Preparations continue for National Poc Fada finals
By Cian O'Connell
National Poc Fada Committee Chairman Tom Ryan is delighted that the event will take place next month in the Cooley Mountains.
It has been a strange year sporting wise, but Ryan is looking forward to the September occasion in Louth which will feature defending champion Cillian Kiely and his brother Cathal from the Kilcormac-Killoughey club in Offaly.
Ryan is encouraged about the interest surrounding the national finals of the Martin Donnelly sponsored Poc Fada.
“Definitely as there is nothing else happening on a national scale,” Ryan says. “It is unfortunate, I suppose, that we haven't had the opportunity this year to have county finals and provincial finals that we normally have. At least the main event is going ahead.”
Ryan also confirmed who will be involved in the 2020 competition. “We have 12 players, we normally have two from each province which is eight, the winner from the previous year, a representative from Louth, that makes 10; Martin Donnelly then has two invites too,” Ryan explains.
“What we did this year was invite the people who won their provincial championships last year. All of the people who represented their provinces last year we invited them back this year.”
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic the committee have continued to plan and plot holding discussions remotely.
“We've had probably as many meetings as we would have in a normal year, except in the comfort of our own homes, if you like,” Ryan laughs.
“I find it quite difficult, some of the people you can't see in the meetings, depending on what technology that is being used. I find it quite difficult talking to a group and not being able to see them all. A different and new experience.”
The Poc Fada retains a loyal and passionate following with Ryan honoured to occupy a central role. “I was always interested in hurling, heavily involved in promoting hurling and coaching hurling,” Ryan says.
“I played myself for years, I got involved in Dublin with the Dublin Poc Fada Committee, and really, I think John Costello was looking for someone to get him off the hook," Ryan jokes. "I was the one who didn't say no quickly enough. Then I was invited on to the National Committee by the former Chairman Humphrey Kelliher.”
Ryan stresses the importance of so many volunteers, who work in diligent fashion to ensure the event runs smoothly.
“Absolutely, nowhere more so than up in Louth, a county that isn't famed for its hurling prowess, but they have a group of people there, who from year to year take on this job,” Ryan admits.
“I said to somebody the other day, I won't be the one going up the mountain with the can of paint, other lads do that, they paint the stones, and they prepare this course. They prepare the venue ahead of every year and they are the ones that should get the real credit.
“I played hurling with Louth back in the 70s, we won a Junior All Ireland, two of the fellas that played with me on that team are still involved in the Poc Fada. One of them, Damien Callan, took part in the very first Poc Fada back in 1960.”
Throughout the decades nice little stories and rivalries have developed in the Poc Fada with the current debate surrounding the ability of the Kiely brothers. “It is interesting the fact that the two of them are involved,” Ryan remarks. “Cillian was there last year by virtue of winning it the year before and his brother won the Leinster to earn the right to compete against Cillian in the final. The two of them will be back again this year.”
Martin Donnelly’s financial support matters deeply, but his general enthusiasm is critical according to Ryan. “Absolutely, he is the catalyst that keeps the whole thing going,” Ryan replies. “The fact that Martin is coming in supporting every year it tends to focus the mind and tends to keep the thing alive. Martin is in his 25th year.
“In every walk of life you need support, you need money, and you need a kickstart. Martin provides that to the Poc Fada, he makes a huge contribution, irrespective of the raw finance, Martin is very important to the whole thing.”