These days, one can scarcely move for GAA autobiographies.

In the interests of full transparency, I should acknowledge that I have written one myself but there’s almost an Andy Warhol-like feel to it – in the future, everybody will be a GAA ghost-writer for 15 minutes.

Three decades ago, they were scarce, which is what made Beyond The Tunnel, by Nicky English with Vincent Hogan, so ground-breaking. Lifting the lid on the vulnerabilities behind the heroic figure we were familiar with, it was rightly lauded and is highly recommended. If you can, somehow find a copy.

On Sunday morning, high on the anticipation of a trip to Thurles for the Munster hurling final, I tweeted a passage from the book, describing the scene as the Tipperary team bus worked its way through the throng for the 1984 provincial decider against Cork.

Tipp had been without a Munster title since 1971 and now, in the GAA’s centenary year, there was a chance to end that wait, knowing that the final would also be taking place in the association’s founding town.

“The atmosphere in the town was like nothing any of us had known before,” English wrote. “There was an electricity, a raw tension in the air.”

On Sunday, the raw tension was as present as ever, but, for a good while, the electricity was absent – literally.

Leaving home in Cork at 12.30pm, the hope was to be in my seat in the Ryan Stand press box an hour before throw-in. While the motorway was far quieter than normal for a pilgrimage to Thurles, I hadn’t banked on being caught in such a tail-back after Holycross – but the lack of power and subsequent delaying of the game by 30 minutes meant I was an hour early anyway.


I used the word ‘pilgrimage’ and it’s only the slightest of exaggerations as there is always an almost-spiritual quality to visiting FBD Semple Stadium.

We all know our own hometown or village fairly intimately and those that travel regularly for work will be familiar with plenty of urban centres in a passing-through way. However, it’s surely not a stretch to say that a hurling fan in Munster has Thurles as the place second on their list of towns they are most used to.

The hub-bub around Liberty Square, then out past Bookworm bookshop and Stakelum’s, up over the railway bridge and you catch sight of the place that has housed so many iconic moments. There’s no denying that it could do with a refreshing in parts but it’s still so special.

My first time there was in 1990, when Cork upset the odds to dethrone the Munster and All-Ireland champions Tipp. Two days short of my sixth birthday, I can’t remember much of what was an epic match but I can recall my father pointing out a pickpocket, which made me rather paranoid, but he had his sights set on bigger things than sweets and Club Orange.

In those days, the trip took longer, with all the usual staging-points ticked out, but the motorway has made the journey more straightforward – I still turn off at Cashel, though.

If not for the GAA, the bypassed Thurles would be largely forgotten by the rest of the country but the link is indelible.

Of course, I write all this as something of a fraud – on Sunday, my economic output was €5 for parking. I had the opportunity to attend for free and then put a report together. All around me, I saw people whose bill for the day no doubt stretched into three figures but they chose to be there, for the chance to witness something special. A power cut was but a small inconvenience – and credit to the public-transport operators for delaying their timetable as a result.

On the pitch, the Limerick-Clare game didn’t crackle with the same level of drama as the previous two editions and the Shannonsiders had six points to spare at the end. It was a fitting figure as it marked the first time a county had won the Munster SHC six years in a row.

For the team and the fans on the pitch at the end, success shows no sign of being diluted by over-indulgence and it will take a great team to stop them winning a fifth straight All-Ireland.

The traffic was fairly heavy getting out of the field I had parked in – it was a small price to pay.

Ciara Mageean: ‘I didn’t grow up playing camogie to get boxed in’

Ciara Mageean celebrates winning gold in the women's 1500m final at the European Athletics Championships in Rome, Italy on Sunday night. \ Sam Barnes Sportsfile.

The quote of the weekend related to Gaelic games but was not among those uttered by any player or manager in the wake of a game.

Instead, it came from newly minted European 1500m champion Ciara Mageean on Sunday night, after she had moved through a slight gap between British runners Jemma Reekie and Georgia Bell to power home for the gold medal.

“I didn’t grow up playing camogie to get boxed in!” was how the Portaferry native put it in her post-race interview and there was certainly a streak of determination that she could not be stopped.

In a way, it was microcosmic of how her career has gone. A top junior athlete, she won bronze at the 2016 European Championships but struggled to build on that, not helped by injury or the pandemic.

While she won silver in 2022 in Munich, she had reached the age of 30, and few would have expected the graph to keep going upwards.

It says much about Mageean that, in her moment of greatest success – up to now, – she took time to remember all of those who had given their time to her and so many others in their formative years. Without those helping hands, nothing else follows.

There is never a stage where a competitor ever fully believes that she or he has truly made it, but that insecurity can act as a driving force. Having an end-goal in sight always helps. “I went out on that track today super nervous, but I had a plan and a mission, that was to hear Amhrán na bhFiann.”

As anyone who has played golf knows, sometimes you can perform as well as humanly possible only to find that someone else has carded a slightly better score. So it goes.

That’s the prism through which we should analyse Rhasidat Adeleke’s performance in finishing second in the women’s 400m.

Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek had to rely on all of her experience to win in 48.98 seconds – the fastest time in the world this year. Adeleke’s 49.07 was faster than any Irish competitor has ever managed and the 17th-fastest of all time. Already with a gold medal from the relay, another first place would have been amazing but, as Sonia O’Sullivan said, she will learn from finishing 2nd and put that education to good use.