One of the by-products of working in sports journalism is that one’s reactions to events are tempered somewhat.

Whether this is a positive or a negative is probably in the eye of the beholder.

When Cork won the All-Ireland senior football title in 2010, I was working in Croke Park that day but not tied to a deadline – I didn’t run around cheering at the final whistle but I was able to savour it and shed a couple of tears as Graham Canty lifted the Sam Maguire Cup. However, the advance of technology and the need to have reports done when the whistle goes means that you are far more focused on the job than the emotions.

One stand-out occasion was a soccer match between Cork City and Derry City in May 2016. Derry led 1-0 as the end neared and I had my report ready to go before a Cork City equaliser necessitated a hasty rewrite.

Deep in injury time, Cork City managed to snaffle a winning goal and there was an even hastier amendment in order to get the article sent in time – it definitely felt like the crossing of a line in terms of being a journalist compared to a fan.


I didn’t have the pleasure of working on the England-Ireland game at Twickenham last Saturday and so I was, like millions of others, watching RTÉ when Marcus Smith scored the late drop-goal to give the home side a one-point victory and deny Ireland a second successive Six Nations Championship grand slam.

Obviously, there was disappointment – nobody has done the slam back-to-back since the expansion of the competition from five teams to six in 2000 – but, with the impartial observer’s hat on, it can be said that what was bad for Ireland was probably good for the Six Nations.

A fortnight previously, England had lost to Scotland while earlier in the campaign Ireland had put 36 unanswered points on Italy. Following those form-lines, the expectations were for an Irish win in London; equally, second-placed Scotland were favourites for their trip to Rome, where a win would have kept the pressure on Ireland.

As things transpired, Italy won and sit in fifth place, above Wales, ahead of their meeting this weekend, while England are up to second place. Ireland, from being moments away from sewing up the championship with a game to spare and clearing the way for a grand slam tilt at home to Scotland, must now win just to be sure of finishing top of the table.


Any fan will obviously prefer when their team is winning rather than losing but jeopardy and unpredictability are what makes sport the absorbing and entertaining experience it is. Competitiveness is the bedrock of any sporting contest and it’s no harm to be reminded of just how difficult it is to win a grand slam – not that that should be necessary anyway when Ireland have only ever won four.

Naturally, coupled with the World Cup quarter-final loss to New Zealand, there will be talk about mentality and the ability to do it when it matters but such chatter tends to ignore all of the occasions when that happened.

With another slam up for grabs, Saturday was going to be a test for the players but, coming off the back of a loss, it now presents a different type of challenge. As Andy Farrell said after Saturday’s game, the team have been good at winning and moving on to the next game without getting too caught up; now they must show that losing is not something that leaves a scar.

In some quarters, winning ‘only’ a championship might feel like an anti-climax but, apart from the titles of 2014 and 2015 – neither encompassing a grand slam – you have to go back to 1948 and 1949 for the last time Ireland retained the title.

Scotland are still in the mix for second place, their campaign a mix of ups and downs – sometimes in the same game, as in their opener against Wales – and they won’t be coming to Dublin to be the supporting role for a procession. Ireland must earn the victory and that, ultimately, is how any of us would want it.

Denise O’Sullivan of the Republic of Ireland exchanges views with Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson in a Women’s World Cup qualifier in 2022 - the sides will renew acquaintances soon. \ Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland women will relish tough tests

In a similar vein, the Republic of Ireland women’s team won’t be short of a challenge following the draws for the 2025 European Championship.

Promoted to the top section of the Uefa Women’s Nations League, they were always likely to be given a tough draw but England, France and Sweden is probably as tricky as could be imagined.

Eileen Gleeson’s side begin their campaign away to France on 5 April before a home game against England four days later – not-insignificantly, both this and the clash against Sweden on 31 May take place at Aviva Stadium (or the Dublin Arena as Uefa call it, as Aviva aren’t one of their official sponsors).

Finishing first or second in the group qualifies Ireland automatically for the finals in Switzerland but even a third or fourth-place finish will ensure a seeded spot in the play-offs. Fourth place would mean relegation from League A to League B, but with the consolation that Ireland would be one of the sharks in that particular tank.

Playing at a higher level means better opponents but it also means bigger games, more interest and a bigger platform on which to shine. It can be painted as something tricky but equally, it is a great opportunity to show the continued progress being made.