While there wasn’t absolute drama all the way, Sunday’s denouements to the provincial hurling championships provided some excitement.

That Dublin could go to Pearse Stadium and comfortably beat Galway would have been considered fanciful up until only a few years ago, but they did that (notwithstanding the impact of the first-half red card for Galway’s David Burke).

They will face Kilkenny in the Leinster final, having only been narrowly beaten by the Cats a couple of weeks ago in their round-robin game. Certainly, the Leinster championship out-performed expectations.

Munster was full of possibilities in the second set of games on Sunday, with Cork left anxiously watching action unfold, albeit knowing that only a draw between Limerick and Waterford would knock them out.

For a while, that seemed a possibility as Waterford stayed with the Shannonsiders but eventually the All-Ireland champions’ class told. Clare had to work for their win over an already-eliminated Tipperary but eventually got over the line

It means that the Munster final will be a Limerick-Clare affair for the third year in a row – the first time that that has happened since Cork and Tipperary faced off in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

However, after 25 games since the weekend of April 20/21, now all we have left are the provincial finals, two All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals, the quarter-finals proper, semi-finals and final.

And yet, to have a championship where everyone gets a fair crack but there is also jeopardy and knockout action, that’s the way it must be.

Dead rubbers

In contrast, the football has burned more slowly, building up to the crescendo in the group stages of the All-Ireland SFC and Tailteann Cup over the coming weekends.

One would hope that the public’s attention will be grabbed more than it has been, with Saturday’s Dublin-Roscommon game in Croke Park played out to around 15,000 people.

Roscommon manager Davy Burke certainly didn’t see the attraction.

“We want to be here for quarter-finals, semi-finals,” he said, “we don’t want to be here for dead rubbers or whatever these are, you know that kind of way?”

Just prior to the weekend, news emerged of possible proposals from the Football Review Committee, chaired by former Dublin manager Jim Gavin.

Chief among them is the suggestion that long-range points would be doubled in value, while teams may be prevented from having more than 12 players in their own half. A countdown clock – used in ladies’ football and twice approved at the GAA’s Congress but not brought into use either time – is again on the agenda.

Increasing excitement and avoiding blanket-defence ‘borefests’ is the aim but one always has to be wary of the law of unintended consequences and the ability of coaches to exploit loopholes.

For instance, the attacking mark was seen as a way of rewarding high fielding but instead it led to cross-field passes affording players free shots. It looks to be on the way out when the committee presents its findings.

One hopes that any new initiatives have greater success and staying power.

Leinster must go again

The Leinster players watch the presentation of the trophy to Toulouse after Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. \ Harry Murphy Sportsfile

Please don’t consider this to be naked self-promotion but, when I was writing Cork Football: Game of My Life, I had the pleasure of speaking to Graham Canty.

The Bantry man was the emblematic figure of the Cork football side of the early 2000s and captained the Rebels to win the 2010 All-Ireland SFC.

Unsurprisingly, that year’s final win over Down was his choice for the match that had the most special meaning.

Cork were going into the game on the back of final losses to Kerry in 2007 and 2009; the thought of a third defeat seemed unthinkable to fans. Yet – perhaps due to his resilient nature – Canty didn’t see it in such dramatic terms.

“It [2009] was tough to take, obviously, but it was always the case that, no matter how you’d done the previous year, you dusted yourselves down and went again,” he said.

“I can remember Dr Con Murphy asking me once what we’d have done if we hadn’t won the All-Ireland in 2010 and I just said it would have been the same thing, win or lose – you face into the new season.

“There was never a guarantee you were going to win every year but you were going to go as hard as you could, with a plan in place, and see how far it brought you. Maybe that sounds too simplified but that’s how it felt in my head.”

A similar challenge now faces Leinster, whose recent record in the European Rugby Champions Cup final even eclipses Cork’s Sam Maguire heartache.

Saturday’s extra-time defeat to Toulouse in London was their third year in a row to finish as runners-up – taking the 2019 loss to Saracens into account, they have lost four of the last six.

They probably weren’t at their best on Saturday but, having finished level after 80 minutes, they can’t be accused of choking. Of course, we always look through a particular prism when analysing these things – it can’t be forgotten that Toulouse came to play as well. They are now the clear leaders on the roll of honour with six titles, two clear of Leinster, and could never be taken lightly.

What can Leinster do only, like Graham Canty said, dust themselves down and go again?

They will be strengthened by the summer arrival of RG Snyman from Munster and then, in the middle of next season, New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett. They will naturally be among the favourites once again and should be in the mix in a year’s time.

That said, the mountain always looks tall when you’re starting again from the bottom.

Lauren maintains fine form

A word for golfer Lauren Walsh, from Castlewarden in Kildare, who continued her fine form at the Jabra Ladies’ Open in France last weekend.

Her fourth-placed finish was her best yet, a third top-ten this season, leaving her fourth in the Rookie of The Year standings and 21st on the Ladies’ European Tour Order of Merit.

To borrow a term from another sport heavily associated with Kildare, it won’t be long before she’s in the winners’ circle.

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