While we have had to wait for some ‘proper’ knockout action in this year’s All-Ireland senior football championship, this weekend should provide some bite.

We have mentioned previously that a round-robin system that reduces 16 teams to 12 has room for improvement but the flipside is that more teams have something to play for in the final round of fixtures.

To that end, there is something riding on every one of the eight games across Saturday and Sunday, with the standout ones looking to be Galway-Armagh, Roscommon-Kildare and Monaghan-Donegal.


Of course, it could well be the case that they don’t live up to expectations and one of the other games provides more drama, with the knock-on criticisms of broadcasters for not choosing differently, but such is the nature of the beast. Head on the block, we fear that this could be the end of the road for Louth, Westmeath, Sligo and Clare.

By Sunday evening, will we know much more about the favourites for Sam Maguire? Perhaps not, but there will at least be a clearer idea as to what everybody must do in order to go all the way.

Hurling-wise, the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals are unusual in that they pit the finalists of the Joe Donagh Cup against the teams finishing in third place in the Munster and Leinster provincial championships. On paper, these games look to favour the higher-ranked sides but it’s worth recalling that Laois surprised Dublin in 2019 while Antrim gave Cork a challenge for almost an hour last year before the Rebels pushed on in the closing stages.

All logic would suggest Dublin beating Carlow to advance to meet Clare and Tipperary getting the better of Offaly to set up a meeting with Galway – but it’s the lack of logic that makes things interesting.

Amazing Adeleke

The cliché that a good start is half the battle can often ring through in sport, but equally there can be a comfort in that an early setback can be overcome.

Concede a goal from the throw-in? No problem, get a couple of points and steady yourself, there’s loads of time. Go out of bounds twice off the tee on the opening hole? Relax, still 17 more in which to find pars and birdies.

Growing up, a book I read again and again was one called World Famous Sporting Moments by Mark Daniel – a gift from my father in the spring of 1995 after he returned from a trip to France. One of the mini-essays covered Linford Christie winning gold at the 1992 Olympics and was called ‘Ten Seconds’.

Daniel discussed how everything is distilled into a tiny temporal window: “All that effort, all those years of training, all the assiduous dieting, all the psychological build-up, all the sacrifices can be thrown away in less than ten seconds.

“You slip on the blocks. You can’t find your rhythm. You don’t peak at the right place at the right moment. And your name, which might forever be cast in gold, is cast instead into the mists which await also-rans.”

In such a landscape, the 400m seems positively eternal but in reality it is still a case of having to get a lot right in a short space of time. Last weekend, Rhasidat Adeleke managed that, beating her own Irish record as she won gold at the NCAA Championships – the main event for third-level sport in the US – in a time of 49.2 seconds.

It was the 20th-best running of the 400m by any woman in history and first NCAA gold for an Irish athlete since Mary Cullen’s 5000m win in 2006. For good measure, Rhasidat helped Texas University to successfully defend their 4x100m relay title.

Naturally, talk will turn to the Olympics, which are just over a year away, but it is equally important to applaud an incredible achievement.

Petty pessimists

My very first column for this corner of the magazine was for the edition of October 29, 2018 – I know, I know, you can’t believe it was so long ago.

In that initial missive, the growing prevalence of the childish ‘my sport is better than your sport’ attitude was discussed and, unfortunately, it’s something that has worsened.

While it was somewhat understandable that Manchester United fans might seek to classify Manchester City’s treble as less genuine than the one the Red Devils achieved in 1999, the Munster-Leinster hurling debate is a bit harder to fathom.

The Munster championship was brilliant but that affirmation also seemed to be joined with what was almost a sense of hurt that Leinster hadn’t matched it. Then, last Sunday, the final in the eastern province was laden with drama as Kilkenny struck at the death to defeat Galway. It might not have been enough to overshadow some of the shadow-boxing up to that point but even so, rather than laud a good game, the critics instead jumped on the fact that Croke Park wasn’t even a third full.

There’s some logic to that, of course – the Leinster Council should look at alternative venues or else lowering ticket prices as the bigger crowd would generate similar gate receipts and avail of more ancillary offerings like programmes and catering.

Still, the hurling fraternity is a smallish one and there’s no need for it to cannibalise itself.

Hollywood golfing storyline

There are a lot of things I might write about the merger of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, but this is a family publication and space is tight. Better to channel golfing energies towards getting out for a few holes in Bandon GC in the evenings, after my young sons have retired for the night.

Still, the merger talk shouldn’t overshadow the US Open, which starts on Thursday at the Los Angeles Country Club in California. With its narrow fairways and silage for rough, the US Open is something of a sadist’s dream and no golfer ever won it without earning it.

One of the most strident critics of LIV has been Rory McIlroy. He is from Holywood, Co Down. A Holywood man to win in Hollywood? The script, as they say, writes itself.