Saturday 1st June was a red-letter day in Down Hurling. Before the senior Hurlers took their place in Croke Park in the Christy Ring final, the county hosted its first Poc Fada in the brilliant surroundings of Downpatrick racecourse. With going good to firm & soft in places over 50 competitors took part across various divisions.
The Poc Fada was supported by Caman Hurls & O Neil's. The individual winners not only receiving a coveted county medal but also a hurl of their choice & a specially commissioned Down Jersey from O Neills.
The even got underway with the Camogs U16 event. The course itself was deceptively hilly and also very tight in places so as to challenge accuracy too. But the 7 young Camogs got round in just over an hour. Winner, Amy Freer from Warrenpoint completed the course 37 strokes beating second placed Niamh Brown from Clonduff by 6 shots. 6 U16 hurlers were up next and they had an extremely competitive course. Coming round the last bend only 1 shot separated the top 4 competitors. In the end the tight home straight cost a few shots & Ciaren Monan from Ballygalget won the event with 31 shots beating Matthew Mee from Shamrocks into second place by a single shot.
The senior Camogs was another closely contested event with many of the county senior Camogs on show it was great for the young girls that had turned up on the day to meet some of the girls they look up to. Sarah Louise Carr, Down & Clonduff superstar full forward (sister of previous Ulster Poc Fada winner Finnoula) was the early leader but a few shots out of bounds cost her dearly in the end. The event was won by her county colleague Liatroims, Ciatriona "Tin Tin" McCrickard. Those long accurate pick outs that took Down to Junior All Ireland finals came in handy at the tight points on the track to see her complete the course in 31 shots with her nearest competitor Aishling Magee on 34.
The men's event was hit with withdrawals during the week due to county commitments. Big hitters such as Grahame Clarke, Conor Woods, Kevin McGarry & Gareth "Magic" Johnson stepped down to concentrate on getting the county to Croke Park & therefore opening the door to some competitors that mite not have originally fancied their chances. This turned the men's into a serious tight event with every competitor coming in at 31 or under. Ian Galway from the Bredagh club put in a terrifically accurate course & the tension on the last few shots was extremely palpable. In the end previous Down winner & Ulster runner up Karol Keating won the even with 27 strokes, beating Ian by the minimum.
Many thanks must go to Downpatrick Racecourse for opening their gates and couldn't have been more helpful with their facilities. Veronica McGreevey, Victoria Donnolly, John Mee, Gerard McShane & Brian Murphy were all on hand to provide great support & the 2 sponsors. O Neills & Caman hurls all played their part in a great day. Special mention must go to Michael Mc Cullough and Liam Mc Veigh for all their hard work and for keeping us right up to date on the Hurling front.