In recent weeks, we have ruminated on the set-up of the inter-county football season as it’s currently configured, with there being a sense that the provincial championships are currently in a sort-of limbo.

The view wasn’t shaken too much by Dublin’s breeze past Meath on Sunday – the television ads leading up to it talking about “the latest chapter in a storied rivalry” were optimistic, shall we say – and this weekend, for instance, it’s hard to envisage Cork claiming a first win over Kerry in Killarney since 1995.

If we’re pointing out the things that aren’t functioning ideally, it’s only fair that we highlight those which are working well and one of the GAA’s jewels, the Munster hurling championship, commences this weekend.

There was a time in the late 1990s when Munster love reached almost-parody levels as the hype machine was ramped up and up but there is little doubt that the introduction of the round-robin format has been a great addition. With so many permutations, there is a beautiful chaos.

It was interesting to hear Cork’s Shane Kingston being asked in a recent interview if he felt that it was unfair that two of the Munster counties had to be eliminated before the All-Ireland series. One might expect that somebody with skin in the game would push for what benefits them and their team but Kingston made the valid point that the cut-throat nature of only having three teams advance added to the excitement that has been witnessed over the past few years.

Savage Sunday

Clare great Anthony Daly has applied the moniker of ‘Savage Sunday’ to the first round of fixtures – Limerick make the short journey to Cusack Park in Ennis to face a Clare side who have run them close in the last two Munster finals and beat them in last year’s round-robin; then, Waterford host Cork at the revamped Walsh Park.

The games are big in and of themselves and in terms of the basic need to get points on the board. Just as important, however, is how the results will leave the state of play for the following weekend.

Clare will travel to Cork and, if both sides are after wins, the victors will run the table but if either comes in on the back of a loss, the pressure will be ramped up. For Limerick, the second assignment will be the visit of a Tipperary side that will want to show improvement on last year’s performance.

It’s not quite the first sight of summer – but it’s certainly a pointer in the right direction.

Augusta National Golf Club action reignites golf appetite

Working as a sports journalist, with its regular weekend engagements, means that, beyond the occasional game of five-a-side soccer, one’s own sporting pursuits are curtailed.

One thankful exception is golf. Once you have a spare five or six hours in a day to get in 18 holes, it can be played any time during daylight hours – as long as the weather complies, of course, and such collaboration has been all too lacking of late.

It felt like a positive sign, therefore, that the weekend showed something of an improvement and that it coincided with The Masters taking place further underlined that.

Watching golf surrounded by such blooming foliage provides an inspirational feel, even allowing for the fact that Augusta National Golf Club is something of a manufactured nirvana.

After witnessing Scottie Scheffler’s victory, Monday was spent clearing out the golf bag (no ‘experienced’ bananas discovered, which is always a result) and Tuesday saw a return to the links at the always-enjoyable confines of Cork Golf Club.

I won’t pretend the golf itself was flawless but there were enough good shots – the rare ones that are somehow ‘the real me’ – to fuel the appetite for more.

Maintaining the winning habit – and hopefully starting it

In the end, La Rochelle’s bid to become honorary Corkmen for the week came to nothing as Leinster sent them packing in an impressive fashion in the quarter-finals of the Investec Champions Cup.

Ronan O’Gara’s decision to base his team in Cork was rooted in some logic as they were travelling from South Africa but, equally, there was some emotion attached. The French side have been struggling this season and it’s likely that there was an attempt to harness some emotional energy and in the process knock Leinster out of their stride.

Leinster pair Jason Jenkins (left) and Jordan Larmoud tackle La Rochelle’s Tawera Kerr-Barlow in Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup quarter-final match at Aviva Stadium. \ Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

In such terms, Leinster could scarcely have wished for a better response. A 23-6 lead coming up to half-time was a fair reflection of their dominance and, though La Rochelle had a converted try before the interval, the second half was a blue wave.

The manner in which they approached the game showed that it wasn’t centred around the idea of revenge for the previous two final defeats or anything like that – Leo Cullen’s side were simply focused on overcoming the obstacle in front of them and reaching the semi-finals.

In the last four, they will face Northampton Saints, who have already knocked Munster out but surely won’t add another Irish scalp.

Unfortunately, Leinster’s quest is a sole one as Connacht and Ulster exited the Challenge Cup, but there was at least some good news as the Ireland women beat Wales in the Six Nations Championship.

While the opening loss to France was understandable, the home defeat to Italy in the team’s second outing was a disappointment.

That marked seven Six Nations games without a win, dating back to victory over Scotland in their last 2022 outing, and when such a run is ongoing, it can feel like it might never end.

Thankfully, they bounced back strongly and scored five tries in a 36-5 victory in Virgin Media Park.

It doesn’t make the trip to Twickenham this weekend any easier, given that England are three from three, but it will give the team some confidence going forward.

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