ABSENCE will make the heart grow fonder and the postponed All-Island Gaelic football tournament will bounce back stronger in 2021, insist Bere Island clubman Jim Hanley.
Bere Island, the remotest GAA club in the county, was gearing up to host the annual tournament on the weekend of May 23rd/24th – but the event has been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead, the Beara club must wait until 2021 to host the ‘real All-Ireland’, as the competition has been referred to.
The annual GAA tournament has been on the go since 1998 and it brings together nine islands along the western seaboard – Bere Island and Whiddy Island from West Cork, Arranmore off Donegal, and Inis Mór, Inish Meáin, Inis Oírr, Inishbofin, Inishturk and Clare Island.
‘Realistically, this had been on the cards for the last month or so, but the decision was made there recently,’ explained Jim Hanley, who is also Beara GAA Chairman.
‘It’s disappointing in one regard because we were looking forward to hosting the competition, but it’s a completely understandable decision.’
The tournament organisers initially explored the idea of moving the event to September/October this year before deciding to postpone it for 12 months.
‘I think that absence will make the heart grow fonder and there will be a real appetite for the tournament next year. We are all missing our sport so when it comes back, we will appreciate it even more,’ Hanley said.
With men’s and ladies’ tournaments held over the weekend, there’s a lot to play for and all the islands take their football seriously, but the social aspect is also hugely important as it brings the islands together.
Bere Island last hosted the competition in 2018 but the signs were there that this year’s event was going to better that weekend, Hanley explains.
‘All the islands had made a commitment to come to Bere Island this year,’ he said.
‘They had all booked in and we were almost ready to go, so you were looking at an influx of at least 400 people to come on the island over the weekend – that would make for a bumper weekend for the island.
‘It’s a boost for the economy locally – for the pubs, shops, restaurants and so on – and there’s the social contact too between all the islands.
‘A lot of friendships have been built up over the years but it’s on hold now until next year.’
Bere Island is quiet these days, Hanley adds. His father still lives there and the daily report is that there is ‘no news’.
Hopefully that will all change by the time the All-Island Gaelic football tournament rolls around in 2021.