There was always great craic and banter when you'd get back to the club with little, mini power struggles for control of the dressing room slagging rights.
It's hard to believe the summer solstice is already upon us with the long evenings starting to unwind from this week onwards.
Very little change is initially noticeable during July and early August, I always found, but come mid-August the difference was unmistakable. Evening temperatures falling, light fading and dampness descending… summer was slowly but surely waning.
I always equate this time of year with the club football championship season and August training sessions struggling to hold on to the fading light. Six weeks previously lads would be tearing around the place with bare chests and sleeveless tops but come mid-August, the fleeces and tracksuits would be re-appearing.
Unfortunately, during my Louth playing career, it was seldom our forages in the Leinster Championship brought us beyond the mid-July mark. Therefore, the previously mentioned summer solstice was more often than not experienced with your clubmates rather than your county colleagues.
After the rigours of a tough inter-county season, it was always great to get back to the bread and butter of the club scene. A time to reconnect with your friends and buddies who you came up through the juvenile ranks with. That sabbatical from the club scene has grown even further in recent years and following a pretty hectic nine months of inter-county activity, upwards of 40 players have begun to return and re-engage with their clubs and teammates.
In my day, there was no settling in or transition period between the county and club seasons. Sometimes you were beaten in a Leinster Championship match on the Sunday and you were straight out the following Friday or Saturday evening in the first round of the club championship.
Thankfully, nowadays, there is a little more thought put into the fixtures process with players allowed some leeway to recover from the toils of the county season before the club championships commence.
While the adult club leagues have progressed nicely since the beginning of April, with most clubs having 10 fixtures completed before this week is out, the return of the 40 or so top players will give club football across the county a major boost.
There was always great craic and banter when you'd get back to the club with little, mini power struggles for control of the dressing room slagging rights. New characters would have emerged during the early season and it always took a certain amount of time for everyone to settle back in.
Hilarious jokes and pranks would often abound with the returning county lads sometimes carrying the can during the bedding-in period. I recall a great story where one such player's talcum powder was continuously being passed around the younger lads in the dressing room while he spent time in the shower post-training.
For several nights he'd return from the shower to a cloud of white dust in the dressing room air and an empty container. The following night he spent even longer in the shower to give all the young lads lots of time to lather up. By the time he returned all the young lads were caked in the stuff.
But this time the container was full of flour. The young lads were destroyed. Parity had been restored. I can still remember the pain in my side from the laughing. I'm sure there are many similar yarns in most clubs and this year’s returning county lads will no doubt have to fight their corner to re-establish themselves in the dressing room hierarchy.
The newly introduced 'three-point for a win' format in this year’s leagues doesn't kick in until early July so it's difficult to fully analyse current league form. However, clear form lines have emerged across each of the four divisions.
Newtown Blues are unbeaten across 14 games so far in 2022 having already secured the Paddy Sheelan Cup in April. The Blues sit top of the Division 1 table with six wins and three draws. Under new manager, Meath man Des Lane, they've been ultra consistent this season but they haven't been shooting the lights out with big scorelines.
Instead, they've been coming out on the right side of tight battles, which is great for morale and is bound to stand to them as the season progresses.
They were three-in-a-row Joe Ward Cup winners from 2017 to 2019 and many people were tipping them for greater dominance before Naomh Máirtín knocked them off their perch. Could 2022 see them climb back to the summit? St Mochta’s, St Mary’s, St Bride’s and Mattock have also shown good early season form but all could change with the pending return of the inter-county cavalry.
In the second tier, the only show in town at the moment is Dundalk Gaels who dominated early proceedings and sit five points clear of the pack with 17 points from nine games. Baby brother Cathal has done an excellent job in his first season in charge which should see the Ramparts outfit in a stronger championship position.
St Kevin’s, under new manager Thomas MacNamee, have also started well and remain unbeaten in second place. Division 3A is a three-horse race between Tullyallen, Dunleer and Tallanstown. These three have enjoyed great rivalry in recent seasons with Glen Emmets currently holding the upperhand. Stabannon's crop of emerging talent sees the mid-Louth men top 3B with St Nicholas and Wolfe Tones hot on their heels.
And, finally, well done to Cumann na mBunscol chairman Fiachra Bell and his hard-working committee on staging a fantastic day of primary schools’ finals in Stabannon last Saturday morning.
Nine finals took place over the course of the day with some exceptional skill and talent on display. Hundreds of boys and girls proudly represented their schools in what, for most of them, would be their final game before heading off to second level.
Great credit must also go to the hard-working teachers who put the time and effort into making the competitions successful. Congratulations to the winners and well done also to the gallant runners-up in what was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion for all those in attendance.