I always feel a little sad taking down the tree on "Little Christmas".
Once the decorations and sparkling lights are boxed away and the tree has been dragged un-ceremoniously out the door (or window ) for the nearest collection point, there can be no denying that all the razzmatazz, hullabaloo, and magic of Santa is over for another 11 months.
On Tuesday evening in the Silke household it was even more poignant than normal as our five-years-old daughter was allowed to stay up late to help pack the crib and take down the tree. As the tree was carried out shedding needles at an enormous rate, she too shed a few tears, and was very, very sad that her tree - the one she had picked on her own with the help of the nice Coillte man - was now dead. Her parting comment as she headed up the stairs for bed with her head low and looking very melancholic was: "Now, I've nothing to look forward to, except my birthday. And we have school tomorrow too." She made a valid point.
Thankfully, though, at least those of us who love GAA have plenty to whet our appetites. And in January, February, and March we have some tremendously exciting games to which we can look forward in both hurling and football.
There are some crackers in both leagues, and there are also some scintillating club games up for decision with pride of place going to the meeting of Ballyhale Shamrocks and Portumna in Thurles on February 22. That tie brings together the two best club sides over the past three or four years, and we will be able to see players of the calibre of Henry Shefflin, Joe Canning, Ollie Canning, and James "Cha" Fitzpatrick in the flesh doing the business for the pride of their club.
The dawn of a new year comes with the excitement of a new GAA season, fresh challenges, and exciting games to be attended. The cobwebs were dusted off by most football teams in the country last weekend and there were some good solid games in the FBD league. Galway's Liam Sammon was pleased to see his side survive a tough test by Sligo and emerge two-point winners.
Sammon, who is county u-21 manager too for 2009, blooded a few new players and it was good to see a few of Alan Mulholland's All-Ireland winning minor panel from 2007 getting their first taste of intercounty action.
Kilkerrin-Clonberne clubman Jonathan Ryan looked very lively at corner forward and hit four fine points, while Martin Coady from Oughterard, who also made his debut, also impressed. Coady, who was a sub on the 2007 team, worked hard throughout and knocked over 0-2 from play.
Sammon, who knows he will need to unearth some new scoring talent this year and perhaps a new midfield partnership if they are to build on last year's progress, was satisfied with the evening’s workout.
"It was very pleasing to see the younger players do so well. We had a lot of under 21s there and it is great they are able to see what is required at this level. There are plenty of positives to take from the game.
“The confidence of the team was very evident. Even when they started to run at us after half-time, we didn't panic and we kept cool to force errors. That comes from winning and that gives you confidence and the young lads will benefit from being involved."
Those young players should get a few more games over the coming weekends before the start of the NFL against Westmeath away. The Tribesmen are in action again this Saturday when they take on Leitrim in Ballinasloe at 2pm. Leitrim are managed by Mickey Moran and John Morrison for the new season, and although they were beaten by GMIT last Sunday, they will have learnt from that defeat, especially in relation to the new rules.
Mayo went down to NUIG in Dangan last Sunday with Galway's Gareth Bradshaw really impressing for the students who are managed by Eoin O' Donnellan again this year. Bradshaw is turning into a really top county player and it will be interesting to see where he lines out for Galway in the NFL. His strong running provides real options and it is highly likely his days at corner back in the county jersey are a thing of the past.
Mayo and John O' Mahony should get back to winning ways this Sunday when they take on Sligo IT in Ballinode at 2pm. Fergal O' Donnell's reign as Roscommon manager got off to a fine start with his side hammering Sligo IT 3-13 to 0-5, with Gary Cox leading the charge with 1-7 (2fs ).
It would be great to see Roscommon making some real genuine progress under O' Donnell this year, and getting out of division three in the NFL would be a great start. His minors of 2006 should be developing into strong and mature players at this stage and Donal Shine starred for GMIT in their victory over Leitrim, hitting some monster scores.
Last year's tree has been pulped at this juncture, but hopefully by the time we see another one up and ready for action we will have enjoyed some exciting days on the road supporting our clubs and counties.