Up to last weekend, Sunday evenings on social media tended to involve hurling aficionados lamenting the fact that football always seemed to be first up on The Sunday Game.
Last Sunday night, there was no hurling at all to show, and it’s doubtful that the hurling people were keen to put themselves through the four provincial football finals – two hammerings, one dour encounter and one fairly close game – again.
However, this weekend they can look forward to the ancient game being front and centre as the two provincial trophies are handed out.
The Munster Cup used to always be known as just that, in both hurling and football, but following a motion from Limerick County Board, a new trophy dedicated to Treaty great Mick Mackey will be presented for the first time this Sunday.
Given that John Kiely’s men are involved in the provincial decider again – seeking the first Munster four in a row since Cork won five on the trot from 1982-86 inclusive – they would love to become the first side to receive the new silverware, but Clare won’t be easily seen off.
While Waterford were seen as the likeliest pretenders to Limerick’s Munster and All-Ireland crowns at the outset of the year – a view solidified by the Déise winning the league and then running Limerick close when they met at LIT Gaelic Grounds – they are now out of the running and Clare have given notice of their candidacy.
Brian Lohan’s side were a Patrick Collins save from Tony Kelly away from beating Cork in last year’s All-Ireland qualifiers before the Rebels went on to reach the final, losing to Limerick.
An unbeaten round-robin campaign by the Banner has seen them build on their potential, with an array of attacking options to complement Kelly, and, without a Munster title since 1998, they will be keen to end that wait.
The terrace tickets for Thurles selling out in 11 minutes shows the level of interest in the game – and the fact that it’s in early June rather than July isn’t the drawback that the doomsday merchants would have you believe.
The only pity is that, after this weekend, there will be just seven games left in the hurling championship.
On Saturday night, the Bob O’Keeffe Cup will be up for grabs and Kilkenny meet Galway in the Leinster final and it too should be a cracking encounter, especially given the Brian Cody/Henry Shefflin match-up on the sideline.
With a place in the All-Ireland semi-final at stake and little between the sides, might we see a provincial title decided on penalties for the first time?
Of course, football fans aren’t completely forgotten about as the All-Ireland qualifiers commence this weekend. With the draw pairing Armagh with Tyrone and Mayo with Monaghan, the winners of the Clare-Meath and Cork-Louth matches will sense a great opportunity for a tilt at the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
The other two victors should be well-primed for what’s to come too, and given how spiky the Armagh-Tyrone league game was, a tense afternoon could be in store at the Athletic Grounds.
Prior to 2018, the honours list of French rugby side Stade Rochelais, or La Rochelle as they are commonly known, comprised of wins in the Challenge Yves de Manoir in 2002 and 2003.
After promotion to the French Top 14 in 2014, they finished top of the table two years later and, though they lost out in the semi-finals, they competed in the European Champions Cup for the first time.
Defeated in the 2019 European Challenge Cup final, the following season saw Ronan O’Gara take over as head coach and in 2021 they contested the Champions Cup and Top 14 finals, losing to Toulouse in both.
With O’Gara as director of rugby for 2022-23, they managed to go one better, edging out Leinster on a 24-21 scoreline in Marseille on Saturday evening, with Arthur Retière scoring a late try and Ihaia West converting.
It was fitting, given how often O’Gara came up with big last-gasp plays for Munster and Ireland.
Out of reach?
He has shown that he has a coaching calibre to match that of his playing career and there are plenty who would love to see him guiding the fortunes of his native province or country. The only worry is that he might be out of reach now.
Having worked wonders with limited resources at La Rochelle – they are in the hunt for the Top 14, too – he will surely be in the mix if one of the bigger boys have a vacancy and it’s probably not beyond the bounds of possibility for him to be a candidate for the French job.
His stock is on the rise, so could Munster or Ireland afford him if and when a vacancy arises? And would he let his heart rule his head, knowing that the expectations would be massive?
While Leinster will be hugely disappointed to have come so close to a fifth title, the post-match discourse should be measured – the concession of one late try does not equate to a system in dire need of surgery. And next year’s final is at Aviva Stadium – an extra carrot for all of the Irish sides.
It used to be that the sound of the cuckoo was the signal of the arrival of summer, but in the recent past it seems to be that fixture clashes for dual camogie and ladies’ football players are just as common.
Last Saturday, Cork beat Kerry in the Munster ladies’ football final in Killarney, while the county’s senior camogie team overcame Clare in Páirc Uí Rinn.
With Libby Coppinger and Meabh Cahalane part of both panels, it was left to camogie manager Matthew Twomey and his football counterpart Shane Ronayne to come to an agreement that Coppinger would start in the football and Cahalane in the hurling, though the latter was introduced as a sub against the Kingdom.
It was as good a compromise as the two set-ups could hope to achieve and the fact that both games were won meant that the issue wasn’t an impediment to either, but it’s shameful that such a situation arose yet again.
Whenever it happens there is a promise that it will be the last time, but there still seems to be a lack of will on the part of the two organisations to look after the players who are good enough to represent their counties in two codes.
One would hope that this would become a thing of the past when the long-mooted GAA, LGFA and CA merger takes place, but questions remain as to whether that will ever actually materialise.