Since the rejuvenation of the Poc Fada competition in the last three years the numbers competing have increased dramatically at county level and as a consequence at provincial final level. Each county provided representations at the two different hurling competitions namely Senior and U16 hurling as well as 10 competitors in the Senior and U16 camogie. For the victors and runners up at senior hurling level plus the winners at the other grades was the honour of provincial glory and a chance for national glory on the first weekend of August at the famed Cooley mountains.
A large attendance was present at the Connacht GAA centre for the finals that were expertly coordinated by the members of Coisde Iomana, Bernie O Connor (National Poc Fada Committee), aided by the staff of the GAA centre. Twenty four male and female hurlers and camogie players were ready for the chance to win provincial honours. Legendary hurling figure Donie Nealon who won five All Ireland senior medals, Fitzgibbon cup honours, was a selector with Tipperary in 1987 and 1991 when they emerged to win All Irelands and finally was long time Munster council secretary was present as a member of the National Poc Fada Committee.
Indeed this was Donie Nealon’s first visit to the Connacht GAA centre and he was fulsome in his praise for the complex and said that ” The Connacht GAA centre stands alone in the country and shows that Connacht GAA is now to the forefront in all aspects of GAA activity“. He added the large attendance and number of competitors showed the effort provided by organisers to build up the prestige of the event“. He concluded by expressing his wish “that more clubs would take part in county competitions and eventually it would be said that the national winner would be a real All Ireland champion“.
The Connacht camogie chairperson Fiona Hamilton welcomed all the Camogie competitors and expressed her thanks for the efforts of all to win U16 and Senior titles. She presented the awards to the winners and wished them well in the Cooley mountains.
Each year the course route is changed at the Connacht GAA centre to provide a new task for competitors who may be involved a number of years. A strong wind was present to offer and hinder the twenty four participants in equal measure. First to compete were the ten Senior and U16 Camogie Poc Fada competitors. When they were half way completed the fourteen Senior and U16 hurlers commenced their battle.
In each case the winner was decided by the distance they passed the winning line due to the closeness of poc’s at the finish line. The Senior and U16 hurling Poc Fada winners were presented with their awards by Connacht GAA President Mick Rock in the of assembled family, friends and supporters of the competitors. Mick Rock thanked all those who were in attendance as competitors and supporters and wished the competition future good health and expressed the support of the province to those who are going forward to represent the province at national level.
Each Connacht county provided competitors for the adult hurling competition which proved to be extremely closely fought. The participants were Galway’s Aidan Ryan (Craughwell) and Kerril Wade (Sarsfields), Peter Poniard (Cluainin Iomaint) from Leitrim, Mayo duo Donal O Brien (Ballyhaunis) and Dave Og Frayne (Tooreen HC), Keith Raymond (Calry St Josephs) and Eolan McCarthy (Calry St Josephs), from Sligo and Noel Fallon (Four Roads) and Dave Connell (Athleague) representing Roscommon. The adult winner was Sligo’s Keith Raymond who narrowly accounted for Roscommon’s Noel Fallon who finished a close second
The U16 boys poc fada competitors were Paul O Donoghue (Clarinbridge, Galway), Leigh McManus (Carrick HC, Leitrim), Andrew McLoughlin (Cluainin Iomaint, Leitrim), Cormac Phillips (Ballyhaunis , Mayo), Eoghan Grady (Oran, Roscommon), Rory McHugh (Sligo). The winner of the U16 title was the closest living to the GAA centre as Ballyhaunis native Cormac Phillips won the title. Cormac was part of the history making Ballyhaunis Community school who won the Connacht GAA NUI, Galway Senior C hurling title this season.
The Camogie competitors at U16 were Lisa Mullen (Roscommon), Shauna Fallon (Roscommon), Sara Healy (Galway), Amy Mulkeen (Mayo) and Orna Hession (Mayo). A close contest was witnessed at U16 level and eventually the title went to Sara Healy from Galway. The adult Camogie poc fada contestants included Fiona Connell (Roscommon), Caitriona Daly (Galway), Sinead Skehill (Galway), Niamh Farrell (Roscommon) and Eleanor Harrison (Mayo). Once again experience told at this grade as reigning Galway and Provincial Cenior Camogie champion Caitriona Daly from Mullagh and Galway retained her title and will again take on the best and worst that the Cooley Mountains can offer.