Daithi Sands happy to swap the bright lights of Vegas for a Down SHC winners medal
LIKE everyone else, Daithi Sands imagined a different summer in 2020. The Portaferry native planned to put his hurling career on hold and enjoy touring the west coast of America before returning home.
But instead of enjoying the bright lights of Las Vegas, Sands will be in the remote setting of Ballgalget, just up the road from his Portaferry home, tomorrow afternoon trying to help his club win their first Down SHC title since 2014 and deny peninsula rivals Ballycran three-in-a-row.
The Ulster University student did his placement year in America, working in the tourist industry, but after Covid19 hit he decided to shelve his travel plans and come home.
“I was in New Jersey, about an hour away from New York, and they were the two hardest hits states with Covid to start with,” Sands explains.
“We were still working away which was probably the best thing because it kept us busy. But at the weekends you were stuck in the apartment, four lads, a curfew of 8pm and not able to go anywhere.
“So we just had to be careful for a while. You couldn’t go into any building without a mask so when I came home no-one was really wearing masks at the start. But then things started to open up again – outdoor dining and they’d the weather for it.
“I didn’t get into New York much between March and June but when I did get in it was bare, it was almost surreal, it was like something out of a movie. We walked through Times Square and there were more cars than people going through it.”
Upon his return home in early July, his main focus was hurling again.
“Once I got wind that there was a chance of some games I wanted to get home and try and get on the team.”
Organisers of the Down SHC opted for a home and away round robin championship format, which ran into difficulty over scoring averages and head-to-heads towards the conclusion.
After slipping up to Ballycran in their championship opener, Portaferry won the rest of their games and let Ballygalget and Ballycran debate the convoluted runners-up spot.
“We didn’t take notice of any of that stuff between Ballycran and Ballgalget,” Sands says, “we just needed to win our games to get through to the final and we did that.”
Sands has been in excellent form over the last number of games while elder brother Eoghan is moving well in the half-forward line.
Ballycran and Ballygalget have shared the last five titles between them with ‘Galget claiming back-to-back crowns in 2016 and ’17 before ‘Cran managed the same feat over the last two seasons.
Meanwhile, the Portaferry squad has been plunged into mourning on the eve of tomorrow’s showdown with Ballycran following the death of manager Gary Smyth’s father, Paddy.
“Regardless of what happens in Saturday’s final, the news of Gary’s father puts things in perspective, that there are more important things going on out there,” said Sands.