With the local and European elections just around the corner, the psephologists will be out in force.

Politics is a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest, in that the analysis of the voting is often more interesting than the actual action. The same cannot be said of the inter-county hurling championships, but the permutations ahead of this weekend’s final sets of round-robin fixtures are a data-miner’s dream.

Across the Munster and Leinster senior championships, there are 243 possible outcomes in terms of qualifiers for the two finals and the third-place spots that send counties through to the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.

Of the 11 counties involved, it is perhaps toughest for Cork, who must sit and watch as the results in the Limerick-Waterford and Clare-Tipperary games decide their fate. Equally, having lost their first two matches to Waterford and Clare, the Rebels are just relieved to still be in with a shout after recording wins over Limerick and Tipperary.

It leaves them on four points, which should be enough for third place – unless Limerick and Waterford play out a draw at TUS Gaelic Grounds. In that case, an expected Clare win over the already eliminated Tipperary would leave Cork on the outside. However, if Tipp were to restore some pride with a victory, they would be doing Cork a favour.

The balance

The balance of probability points to home wins for Limerick and Clare, which would see them butt heads in the Munster final for the third straight year, with Cork going through in third. But, if the Munster championship has shown us anything, it is that unpredictability is the only thing that can be predicted.

That has not always been the case for the Leinster championship but this year’s sequence of results has made for great excitement. While last weekend’s games went the way of favourites Galway, Kilkenny and Wexford against Antrim, Dublin and Carlow respectively, the results left things as finely poised as they could be.

Though Antrim, on two points, and Carlow (one) cannot qualify, their game at Corrigan Park serves as a relegation play-off, while the other two matches are effectively provincial semi-finals.

Kilkenny lead the way on six points, with their opponents Wexford on five, the same as Galway and Dublin, who meet at Pearse Stadium. Those three games take place at 2pm on Sunday, with the Munster clashes at 4pm.

The possibilities are many and the drama should be plentiful. The only pity is that, after Sunday, there will be just seven games remaining in the hurling championship.

Páirc life

Attending SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh for work is a regular occurrence for me, so to visit the venue for last Thursday’s Bruce Springsteen concert was a nice break from the norm.

On Tuesday, 16 July, I will have another cause to go there as a fan rather than a journalist, following the announcement that the Cork stadium will host the Women’s Euro 2025 qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and France.

Tallaght stadium

With Aviva Stadium – which hosted Ireland’s games against England and Sweden – unavailable in July for maintenance works and Tallaght Stadium also ruled out due to Shamrock Rovers’ Champions League qualifiers, an alternative had to be found.

Thankfully, Cork County Board were proactive in offering their home and the matter was dealt with without drama by the GAA’s Central Council last weekend.

The novelty of the occasion should hopefully ensure a big showing for the Girls in Green and ignite the dreams of the youngsters being exposed to live international football.

Leinster's drive for five - again

Leinster players, from left, Hugo Keenan, Jason Jenkins, Andrew Porter, Robbie Henshaw and Ross Byrne, walk past the European Champions Cup trophy after defeat to La Rochelle in last season's final. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

When Leinster beat Racing 92 to win the European Rugby Champions Cup final in 2018, it was the sixth win in 13 years for an Irish side.

The only time during that period when an Irish province was beaten in a final was 2012, when Leinster beat Ulster. However, Leinster have reached three of the five deciders since then and the wait for the fifth star above the harp on their crest goes on.

On Saturday, they will make a fourth attempt to win number five when they clash with Toulouse at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. In as much as Leinster are a behemoth – one might argue with a position of supremacy in Ireland that is to the detriment of the other provinces – getting to a final is not easy.

A team has to be able to perform every day they go out and such consistency is not easy to achieve. While the last 16 and quarter-final wins over Leicester Tigers and La Rochelle were fairly straightforward, Leo Cullen’s side were asked serious questions by Northampton Saints in the semi-final at Croke Park but came out on the right side of a 20-17 scoreline.

The quarter-final carried as much resonance, if not more. La Rochelle, guided by Ronan O’Gara, had beaten Leinster in the last two finals and a group-stage win in France had softened some of those blows. Even so, that would have been undone if they had been beaten by them in the knockout stage for the third straight year but the way they dealt with the challenge gave an insight into the clear-eyed focus that they carry.

Now, the final step – what they hope will be a victory to provide catharsis for the past half-decade. However, in their way is French and European rugby royalty.

Toulouse currently lead the domestic league, the Top 14, a competition whose roll of honour they top, with 22 titles. They are also the market-leaders in continental fare, standing alone on the rock of five European Cup/Champions Cup victories that Leinster are hoping to reach.

The bookmakers are struggling to call it, making Leinster the one-point favourites, and it would not be surprising if it turned out to be a close game.

Leinster’s attacking capabilities are not in doubt. Having conceded 27 points to La Rochelle in a one-point defeat last year, Cullen is keen to ensure that they remain hard to break down at the other end.

“Delivering that kind of defensive performance on a big day against a really good attacking team, that is probably number one on the agenda this week,” he said.

The holistic thing to say is that one hopes that a marvellous encounter ensues, with rugby the real winner. The cynical thing to say is that at least Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will finally have a trophy in it, as the owners are unlikely to bring one there.

And the biased, tribal, parochial thing to say? Here’s to Leinster finally getting over the line.

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