Obviously, to win anything is nice and it should be celebrated.

Ireland’s victory over England last weekend marked only the fourth time that the country had won a grand slam in the Five or Six Nations Championship and not to appreciate that would be a mistake. As well as things are going right now, we don’t know when it will happen again.

At the same time, one had to admire head coach Andy Farrell’s reaction after the game, noting that this achievement is – hopefully, anyway – another step on the journey rather than being the end goal.

“I’ve just been saying to Johnny [Sexton] that there is bigger fish to fry than this, you know,” he said on Saturday evening.

“So, we are on to the World Cup – we’re just going to enjoy this next 48 hours, 100%. We are a good side that has nowhere near reached its potential. I’ve been saying over the last couple of weeks that’s what we have been striving to do.”

With the senior grand slam being joined by the U20 side doing the same, the future looks as bright as the present, but nothing ever stands still for too long. While Farrell’s approach in looking ahead was a positive one, former New Zealand coach Steve Hansen – who could never be accused of being knowingly charming – laid down a gauntlet by saying that there will be a lot of pressure on Ireland at the World Cup, especially given past experiences.

“They’ve seemed to struggle a little bit at World Cups,” he said. “If it was the All Blacks, they’d probably be called chokers.”

Great expectations

Whatever way it’s framed, the expectations will be high, but this Ireland team does seem different in that they have met the challenges and overcome them so far this year.

With two grand slams already claimed, one might think that it leaves a lot for the women’s team to emulate as they start their campaign this weekend. A grand slam doesn’t just happen by itself, though – it’s the result of a long process, building on solid foundations.

The Ireland women take on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday and, after a fourth-placed finish in last season’s competition – including a home defeat to the Welsh – tangible progress would be a realistic goal.

Ireland players celebrate with the Six Nations trophy and Triple Crown trophy after the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship. \ Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

What the men’s success will have done, though, is put something of an onus on the IRFU to ensure that the women’s team is given sufficient backing and empowerment to get the most out of themselves.

That the women’s competition – sponsored by TikTok – is scheduled after the men’s is a positive in that it is given the room to receive exposure, rather than being swallowed up in the coverage of the men’s.

Hopefully the overall feelgood factor associated with Irish rugby right now can provide a “rising tide lifts all boats” effect for Greg McWilliams and his team.

Tasty GAA ties on the way

There’s probably not yet enough of a smell of cut grass in the air – it is still March, after all – but the GAA championships are only just around the corner, with some tasty provincial football games lined up for the weekend of April 8-9.

Of course, some counties still don’t know if they will be in the 16-team All-Ireland football series or the second-tier Tailteann Cup after their provincial championship ends, making the last round of Division 2 games extra interesting this weekend.

While Clare and Limerick are already relegated with a game to spare, the three sides above them, Cork, Meath and Kildare, are in potential jeopardy as the presence of Division 3 and/or Division 4 sides in provincial finals would knock one or two Division 2 teams down into the Tailteann Cup.

While the hurling league isn’t as fraught with danger, this weekend should see some entertaining games played at a pitch that isn’t off championship level as counties gear up for the ‘proper’ stuff.

Tipperary have had a great league after a poor 2022 and will look forward to having a go at All-Ireland champions Limerick in their semi-final while the meeting of Kilkenny and Cork sees two teams who fancy themselves as having the potential to knock the Shannonsiders off their pedestal.

At the other end of the scale, Westmeath meet Laois in the relegation play-off, looking to maintain top-flight status. In one sense, staying up allows the opportunity for games against strong opposition next year but defeat wouldn’t a disaster either as the side going down would be in with a strong chance of winning Division 2.

Ultimately, it’s about trying to maximise the situation you find yourself in – in any case, whoever wins, the thoughts will immediately turn to championship.

FAI’s new kit deal

When the FAI announced the cessation of its kit deal with Umbro last October, some supporters of a certain age hoped it might lead to a return of adidas. The strips made by the German firm were worn in Ireland’s appearances at Euro 88 and the World Cups of 1990 and 1994, but it’s probably for the best that it didn’t materialise – the nature of such deals now means that Ireland would be well down the list of contracts and would not be receiving specially designed kits.

Instead, the FAI have agreed a deal with Castore, who are new kids on the block in the kit game. Backed by tennis player Andy Murray, they have tied down a number of teams and there is talk that Leinster Rugby will be the next addition, this summer. They are offering good money – something the FAI always need – but supporters would have had some fears as to the aesthetic quality of what they would come up with. It seems they needn’t have worried as the new jersey is a modern take on the classic shirt produced by O’Neills in the 1980s, green with white and gold pinstripes.

Look good, play good – we can only hope that the new duds help to bring about a positive performance against France at Aviva Stadium on Monday night.

Of course, the Women’s World Cup will also provide a chance for Castore to show their wares - a bespoke kit for Vera Pauw’s team wouldn’t go amiss.