What a weekend it was for hurling aficionados. With the Joe McDonagh Cup final on Saturday serving as a tasty hors d’oeuvre as Carlow beat Offaly after extra time, Sunday’s provincial championship denouements again brought even more drama.

It wouldn’t have taken a lot to go differently for us to be sitting here anticipating a Clare-Cork Munster final with Tipperary eliminated and Wexford relegated – such are the fine margins which make it all so exciting.

Naturally, Cork will be disappointed to be out after losing to both Limerick and Clare by a point each, but such is the nature of the round-robin system. One would hope that the experience will prove to be an educational one for Pat Ryan’s young squad.

For Tipperary, there is disappointment that an opportunity to reach the Munster final wasn’t taken – credit to Waterford for restoring pride with their victory, despite already being eliminated – and the six-point loss, coupled with a Limerick-Cork draw, would have ended the Premier County’s year.

Liam Cahill’s side at least have the consolation of an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final against Offaly to get back on track but if they win that, they will face the losers of the Kilkenny-Galway Leinster final.

For a long time, it looked like Dublin would beat Galway to make the decider while Kilkenny led against Wexford, a result that would have relegated the Model County as Antrim led against Westmeath.

Unfortunately for the Lake County, Wexford’s fightback saved them and meant that Joe Fortune’s side’s great win in Wexford the previous week wasn’t enough to stop them dropping back down to the second tier.


RTÉ showed the Dublin-Galway game rather than broadcasting from Chadwicks Wexford Park. The decision was made well in advance, but there were obviously cameras on Slaneyside and surely a call could have been made to swap, given what was at stake.

What’s worse is that not even the maligned GAAGO was showing the Wexford-Kilkenny game.

The pity now is that there are just seven more games left in the hurling championship – two preliminary quarter-finals, two quarter-finals proper, two semi-finals and the final.

It’s a feast to a famine in terms of the numbers of games and the fact that this is happening as May turns to June – when, traditionally, the championship was only kicking into gear – heightens the anxiety of the hurling evangelists.

It’s the pay-off for having the split season, so that all of the club players up and down the country can be accommodated, and there will never be a system that suits everybody.

Thirty years ago, Waterford’s season was over on May 23, after a loss to Kerry. In 1996, Cork were out on May 26 after a 3-18 to 1-8 defeat to Limerick – the outlook on Leeside back then was bleaker than it is now.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when Cork were the undisputed kingpins in Munster and regular All-Ireland winners, there was a consolatory saying, “At least we have the hurling,” that was used when Kerry would administer the usual Munster football final defeat.

Interesting dynamic

This time around, the fans on Leeside can at least look forward to the county’s footballers welcoming Kerry to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday, with an interesting dynamic to the fixture.

Cork’s win over Louth last week, coupled with Kerry having lost to Mayo the week before, means that the Kingdom’s margin for error is reduced, though the fact that three counties progress from each four-team group does provide a cushion.

Elsewhere, Group 3 is nicely poised after the draw between Kildare and Sligo was followed by one between Dublin and Roscommon.

With the Lilywhites having lost by just two against the Dubs in the Leinster championship, the meeting at UPMC Nowlan Park in Kilkenny might just throw up a surprise.

Maguire shines in LGPA Match-Play

Anyone who has played golf knows that it can be a bit head-melting – and that’s just when your only opponent is the course.

Throw in an actual human adversary, as is the case in match-play golf, and the brain can become even more scrambled, given the psychological warfare that can ensue.

Last week, Leona Maguire was playing in the Bank of Hope Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Match-Play in Nevada and her goose looked cooked as she fell four holes behind in her second-round tie against Jenny Shin.

The Cavan woman battled back to all-square by the 15th hole only to then lose the 16th. However, she won the 17th to level again and then claimed victory on 18 – the only time in the round that she had led. Maguire built on that and reached the semi-finals.

Oddly, despite such a good showing, her world ranking dropped from 17 to 20 but, given that she was outside the top 100 just over two years ago, that’s not a huge concern.

It’s coming into the busiest time of year in women’s golf, as an eight-week period from the end of June to the middle of August sees the remaining four Majors take place.

Maguire’s preparations for the next one, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on June 22, will continue with this weekend’s Mizuho Americas Open in New York. Here’s hoping that her momentum is maintained.

Munster play a stormer

Last Monday brought a beautiful sunny evening to Limerick, the perfect setting for Munster bringing the United Rugby Championship (URC) trophy back to Thomond Park.

A season that looked to have hit the buffers following their Champions Cup exit came to an amazing climax last Saturday, as John Hodnett’s late try gave them victory over the Stormers in Cape Town.

Due to the nature of the competition’s seedings, Munster had to play away for the final six games of the campaign, but the province fed off adversity and flourished.

That long stint on the road made it all the sweeter for the supporters who came out to welcome back their heroes on Monday.

A dozen years since their last title in the competition, they will look to make this a springboard for a return to regularly contending for European honours.

Arsenal crash out

Like my father before me and like how I’m currently trying to gently influence my sons, I am a supporter of Arsenal Football Club.

A Premier League season that excited us for long parts came to an end last Sunday with the Gunners second behind Manchester City, though in truth it was over within a few weeks, ever since a run of bad results knocked Arsenal out of their stride.

The final outcome is disappointing, obviously, but I made sure to enjoy the journey and its incredible moments. Maybe it’s because COVID-19 reminded us to appreciate the here and now, maybe it’s because at the back of my mind I knew that City would eventually grind their way to glory, or maybe it’s because I’m more mature than I used to be.

Manchester City may or may not be stripped of their success if any or all of the 115 charges against them for financial impropriety are upheld, but that’s immaterial as it’s not about them. Arsenal had been listing aimlessly for a while (all relative, of course) but the past couple of years have seen growth and development and it’s been enjoyable. And there’s always next season.