Farewell then to Sky’s GAA coverage, following the announcement of a new package for the coverage of games, with RTÉ and GAAGO [heretofore, the official streaming service for Gaelic Games outside of Ireland] sharing the load.

When Sky’s entry into the market was announced, it was the cause of much disquiet – as well as few too many “Here’s what Kev in Stalybridge thinks of hurling!” articles – but as time passed it just became a thing that was there.

The limited audience meant there were rarely unmissable moments that had everybody talking. The focus on analysts rather than shoot-from-the-hip pundits was admirable but there’s a reason why RTÉ throw in one or two of the latter – whatever people might say, they like to tune in for a bit of conflict and to have their own sensibilities tested.

The departure of Sky doesn’t mean the end of paid GAA coverage though as GAAGO requires a subscription – heretofore, it was largely there to provide action for those living abroad and the increase in games for them will require a big increase in resources.

A welcome addition to the RTÉ canon will be the fact that there will be a second highlights programme, presumably on a Saturday night – with so many matches on in a compacted timeframe, and more to come with the change in football format next year, there simply wasn’t enough time in one edition of The Sunday Game to do it all justice.

With a new presenter required in the wake of Des Cahill’s decision to step down, we wonder if RTÉ might opt to go for a two-pronged approach and pitch the two programmes differently in terms of tone? It’s something that the BBC have done well with Match of The Day and its Sunday night equivalent, MOTD2.

Glory at last for St Michaels

They say you have to lose a final to win one – if that’s the case, St Michael’s of Cork will be expecting to win another five deciders in the near future but right now they will be happy to have finally claimed silverware.

In 2012, the football outfit from the city (a sister club of Blackrock) reached the final of the county premier intermediate football championship, which was then the second tier on Leeside.

Their quest to return to the senior ranks was ended as St Vincent’s won and then, when they made it back to the final in 2015, they fell to Carrigaline.

They were back again in 2017, this time losing to Mallow, and that was the start of an unwanted three-in-a-row – Fermoy edged them in the 2018 final before Éire Óg did the same in 2019.

If fate were a slightly crueller mistress, she might have decreed that Michael’s would actually win in 2019 – after that year, a restructuring of the Cork competitions saw the creation of senior A as the new second grade and so both Éire Óg and St Michael’s competed in that in 2020.

Éire Óg managed to win it at the first time of asking – they beat Michael’s in the semi-final – and, when Michael’s did reach the final in 2021, they lost out to Mallow, who had been beaten in the 2020 final.

Despite the setbacks, Michael’s were ready to go again for 2022 and they topped their group to secure an automatic semi-final spot.

After beating O’Donovan Rossa, their manager, Offaly native Dave Egan, hoped that the past hurt could be fuel for success. “I believe there are lessons to be learned,” he said. “Success leaves clues, but so do defeats.”

In last Sunday’s final, Michael’s faced Knocknagree, who were on an incredible run of their own – at the start of 2017, they were junior A but three county title wins in the interim left them within touching distance of the top flight.

Michael’s had won when the sides met in the group stage and so were on a hiding to nothing but, in tricky conditions, they finally came good, with two Adam Hennessey goals key in a 2-7 to 0-6 triumph.

Back at the club house, Take That’s Greatest Day was the song of choice as the team serenaded. It was certainly earned.

Golden age of Irish cricket

Ireland won’t win the T20 Cricket World Cup, but – as is often the case when taking part on the sport’s biggest stages – they will depart having left their mark.

The win over England was a highlight, even if the byzantine Duckworth-Lewis Method – a way of calculating when rain affects play – was called into play to determine victory.

For the casual fan, it’s pleasant to check in every few years and see Ireland give one of the big boys a black eye – they recorded an incredible win over the West Indies to qualify for the Super 12 stage – but a lot of work has to go in at the back end for Ireland to remain a relevant player on the world stage.

Back in January, they beat the West Indies in a series of one-day internationals and also put it up to New Zealand, ranked second in the world, while in 2021 there were victories against South Africa and Zimbabwe.

After the heroic exploits of the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, the fear might have been that Ireland would regress once a gifted group of players passed through but thankfully that has proven to be a platform on which to build. Playing numbers in Ireland have quadrupled in the last decade and a half.

Earlier this year, Ireland’s most-capped player Kevin O’Brien retired at the age of 38. While it was a pity that he was doing so as he accepted he wouldn’t make the World Cup squad, it was a sign of Ireland’s progress that they were able to survive and thrive without such a totemic presence.

Wins like the one against England ensure the best chance of the next O’Briens being inspired.

World Cup quandary

It was only when watching a Premier League game last weekend when a commentator mentioned it was 21 days to the start of the World Cup in Qatar that it struck me how close it all is.

Usually, the season would end and there would be a few weeks to regroup before the build-up started – supplements in the papers, sticker albums, TV previews – but for a multitude of reasons, this is all different.

We associate watching World Cups with long sunny days rather than murky pre-Christmas weather and the experience for the supporters travelling to the Middle East will, by all accounts, be quite different, too.

Given Qatar’s LGBTQ+ stance and the conditions that workers on the stadiums had to endure, some will boycott the World Cup. I’d like to say I’d do the same but? when it comes to it, it’s the World Cup and I’ll have an interest. Does that make me a bad person?