Never go back’ is the received wisdom in both relationships and sport, but Jack O’Connor is the latest GAA manager to ignore it.

To be fair to him, the new Kerry senior football boss can point to his own track record in terms of bucking that consensus, returning to the role in 2009 after winning All-Irelands in 2004 and 2006 and immediately claiming Sam Maguire again. Only once since, in 2014 under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, has the Kingdom come out on top.

The Dromid Pearses clubman already stands with Kevin Heffernan and Billy Morgan in winning All-Irelands with their counties in their second stints in charge. Heffernan won two the first time, 1973 and 1976, and then returned the Dubs to glory in 1983; Morgan had a one-off term in 1981, came back in 1986 and made Cork a powerhouse and then, in the early 2000s, went for the treble. While he couldn’t take Cork to Sam again, he laid the foundations for the 2010 victory.

When Brian McEniff led Donegal to their first All-Ireland in 1992, he was actually in the fourth of five different spells in charge of his native county, while on the hurling front, Pat Henderson (Kilkenny), Cyril Farrell (Galway) and Liam Sheedy (Tipperary) all won All-Ireland senior titles in their second terms as manager.

Having cut short his stint with Kildare, O’Connor will know what to expect in the role he recently compared to being akin to being the manager of Manchester United.

It’s a job with a lot of potential – even allowing for the fact that Kerry were unable to translate any of their five straight All-Ireland minor titles from 2014-2018 into further glory – but it comes with a lot of pressure too and there is no sparing of sensitivities when things aren’t going well.

Already with two spins on the merry-go-round behind him, O’Connor will be hardened to the criticism, both internal and external, and he has shown previously that he can get the most out of the Kerry teams in his charge.

With Tyrone facing the challenge of trying to repeat their gargantuan feat of claiming Sam, Dublin showing signs of vulnerability for the first time in a half-decade and Mayo with question-marks of their own, O’Connor will relish the opportunity.

Zebo’s dream return kickstarts Munster’s season

While it was hyperbolic from the commentators on RTÉ to say that “you couldn’t write” Simon Zebo’s heroic return to Munster colours on Saturday night – you absolutely could, but you’d have made it a hat-trick of tries rather than two – it was nevertheless a heartening sight.

The Cork native’s pair of touchdowns bookended an impressive 42-17 win over the Cell C Sharks (Cell C is a mobile phone operator in South Africa) at Thomond Park on Saturday night as Johann van Graan’s side enjoyed a positive start to the new United Rugby Championship.

A by-product of the greater travel involved now that there are four South African sides is that the fixtures involving them give a huge advantage to the home sides, but Munster could only play what was in front of them and Zebo’s return gave them something that had been lacking.

There is a reluctance to get too carried away as, like the national league in the GAA, reading heavily into results can prove to be foolish come championship time and the Heineken Champions Cup will obviously give a greater indication as to where Munster stand.

Their opener in early December is against Wasps and the time between now and then will allow them to build some form and iron out any rustiness – Joey Carbery’s kicking was loose, but that should improve with playing time.

More than anything, though, it was great to see a rugby game with a crowd present. While Thomond wasn’t full, man of the match Craig Casey still struggled to hear the questions in his post-match interview. Munster, as much as anyone, benefit from the presence of a raucous crowd and the 16th man will hopefully have a part to play as the season goes on.

Equality the catalyst that can propel Girls in Green to higher levels

Was it coincidence that the Republic of Ireland senior women’s soccer team ended an eight-match losing streak in their first outing since the announcement of a equalisation of match fees paid to the men’s and women’s teams?

Perhaps, but the 3-2 friendly win over a highly-ranked Australian side at Tallaght Stadium last week – the first triumph since beating Montenegro in March 2020 – does at least provide some momentum heading into the World Cup qualifiers later this month.

Sweden and Finland provide the opposition for Vera Pauw’s side, who finally secured parity in terms of game fees back in August.

Credit must go to the senior men’s squad, who agreed to forgo some of their own appearance payments in order to make up the difference – certainly, it’s something that will be of more value to the women’s side.

The challenge now for the team is to deliver on the field. The Australian result is certainly a step in the right direction.

Get out and get involved

By the time you read this, the European Week of Sport (EWS) will be coming to a close, but it’s never too late to get up and get active. The EWS is a week-long celebration of sport that encourages everyone to take part in some sort of sporting activity no matter what your age, demographic, or ability level is. There really is something for everybody.

For more information on what events are running in your area and how to get involved see the Sport Ireland website. CL