The Magic of The Sevens
- Richard Stakelum, former captain of Tipperary and Kilmacud Crokes, brings the Sevens to life -
My first experience of the 7s goes back to the '70s when Borris-Ileigh under the guidance of that dynamic ecentric, Seán Kenny, challenged for All-Ireland honours. Considered by concerned parents to be too young to be let go to Dublin with the 'Lads', I had to content myself with waiting patiently outside Stapleton's Bar in the village where telephoned messages from the Capital relayed the team's progress.
In the years that followed, the month of August was always geared towards 7's week-end. Numerous challenge games were organised, tactics worked out, 7 a.m. training stints beside the Clodagh River along with the customary and welcome swim afterwards. All became part of the preparation for the year's greatest Hurling festival.
Friday evening - check your gear; 3 hurleys, 2-3 pairs of socks and shorts, multi-studded boots, methylated spirits for blistering feet, honey and raw eggs for energy and a final call to that well known publican, John Gleeson for ice buckets, then early to bed.
Saturday - up early, get the weather forecast, breakfast, then off in convoy to Dublin. We'd arrive at the Montrose hotel where tea and toast would be served. Last minute checks and the 'wind up' began before departing for Silverpark, St. Benildus or UCD. 10.30, first game, always the hardest. The ball comes - away with you - 'Go!, Go!, Go!' roar the sideline, 'steady', 'take your point', 'pick up the nearest man', the ball is back in play, already you're chasing back, hassling - ball out of play, the game is only on a minute or so and you're knackered. 'Man in - Man out', you're off - lying down on the sideline, gasping for air and miles to go before you sleep.
Once over the first match the day flies, If you make it to Glenalbyn you're in with a real chance. Every scoring opportunity must be taken. In 7s a ten point lead is nothing, especially when limbs ache and concentration can easily be frayed. This is where the Kenny's, O'Dwyer's, Fenton's, Carey's and Ryan's speed, stamina and skill , shine out like beacons.
Over the years, watching and playing in the 7s, some memories are special. Winning the tournament itself in 1987 when Aidan Ryan gave memorable displays, The Midleton team of the '80s, Noel O'Dwyer winning in '76/'78 without ever being substituted, the porter and the craic.
This year will be no different, like all hurlers I'm really looking forward to the 7s weekend.
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