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18th Nov 2016

#TheToughest: The 12 best things about the GAA club championship

Conan Doherty


It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

The club championship – the real championship, as some call it.

We only whinge all year about not getting to play it because it is the biggest and best event of the season, no matter how small and bad it might end up feeling like. It’s still the club championship, it’s still our championship.

People’s worlds revolve around these championships. Families discussing games over tea, boys asking you in the shop how training’s going, everything geared up toward a Sunday in a random pitch somewhere in your county – there’s something magical in that.

Here are the best things about the AIB GAA club championships.

1. The crisp autumn air

Anton McMullan celebrates winning 16/10/2016

It’s funny, people cry about wanting the club season to finish up sooner and they all have their gripes about playing their most important games of their lives in October and November – risking the elements. But there’s something about the air around that time that is now synonymous with the club championship.

Cold, sharp, fresh. It can be tough for supporters to bear but if the rain stays off, it’s perfect playing conditions. Now when you see your breath back in the air, you know it’s championship time. Club championship time.

2. Flags and bunting

Workers put out bunting and flags in Thurles 4/9/2009

Communities become clubs and clubs become empires and every one of your natives will wave those colours proudly.

There’s something extraordinary about your otherwise everyday Joe soap being elevated to hero status for the weeks of the club championship.

The GAA produces role models all over and it doesn’t matter if they’re playing in Croke Park or Cullen Park, kids will look up to these people.

3. The evenings tucking back in

The Corofin team training 12/3/2015

Just like the stretch in the evenings signal the start of the summer, once you’re training again in the dark towards the end of the year like you were in January, you know you’re doing something special.

Coming full circle through the seasons together is a sign of a successful team.

4. Friendships are put to one side for 60 minutes

Michael Murphy and Rory Kavanagh 2/11/2014

You can win all the All-Irelands you want at county level together, you can joke around at school or make friends at college but once you put on your club colours, that’s all that matters.

You’ll argue with some of your closest friends, you’ll foul each other, hit each other hard because you only have one concern at this time of year. Afterwards, you’ll shake hands. You’ll move on.

But you’d do it all again if you had to.

5. No amount of blood can force a man off

For feck’s sake, it’s only a scratch.

6. Everyone wants to help out


Someone is always just there to line out the pitch.

7. The world stops


For one hour, nothing else on this planet is important but a game of football or hurling. This might as well be the centre of the universe – and the players, the coaches and every man, woman and child involved with the club are hanging off every movement of a football.

8. Whatever heights you’ve scaled, this is all that matters now

Kevin McManamon has a tussle after scoring with Tom Quinn 27/10/2016

9. We’re all family


We might all go to war and say and do things out of pure aggression and sheer desire to win, but when it comes down to it, we’re still part of the GAA family.

We’re still brothers – literally, in the case of Keith and Brian Hogan above.

10. Priorities are soon put in place

We can do without the bloody pram, just get onto the pitch!

11. Everyone wants to play – and even train


12. No matter how much you hate it, you’ll do it all again next year

Colm McGoldrick dejected at the end of the game 7/2/2016

It’s all about the journey.

Aaron Kernan joins Colm Parkinson on The GAA Hour to explain the work he’s doing for the Club Players Association. Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue talks Slaughtneil and a Dublin club advertising for hurlers gets a sore touch. Subscribe here on iTunes.