No matter how many times we experience the national football and hurling leagues, previous lessons are roundly ignored.
Last year, Limerick trained heavily during the hurling league, with the upshot of them losing four out of five matches before seeing off Offaly to avoid having to compete in the Division 1 relegation play-off.
It inspired some premature talk that the Shannonsiders may be on the slide – the championship showed otherwise.
Back in 2014, Kerry lost their opening three league games. The crisis talk naturally got some airing – this despite the fact that Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s team had been beaten in their opening four matches the previous year before clicking into gear. Come September 2014, Sam Maguire had been claimed and the league results forgotten.
As Kerry are a marquee team, it works the other way too, though. In the delayed 2021 season, they ran in six goals against Tyrone in the league and some radio commentators made a comparison with the Mick O’Dwyer ‘Golden Years’ team.
However, when the sides met again in the All-Ireland semi-final, it was Tyrone who dogged it out before then beating Mayo in the final.
And yet, and yet, and yet. Even with all this foreknowledge that what we are seeing may not be a true reflection, we extrapolate a lot from a little.
Kerry’s loss to Mayo a few weeks ago, on the back of a narrow opening-round defeat to Donegal, raised some questions which conveniently ignore the comfortable win over Monaghan.
Another win last week, at home to Armagh, and Kerry are in third place in the table.
While each of their previous All-Ireland wins under Jack O’Connor – 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2022 – came after winning the league, drawing a clear parallel is a classic example of the Latin phrase, ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’.
Just because something happens after something else, it does not follow that it happened because of the first thing.
Every football team in Ireland is on the precipice of a new championship format and nobody really knows how to prepare for a longer campaign than usual. But, in Kerry’s case, they have more of an idea than most.
The chances of them not being in the Munster final are infinitesimal; the chances of them not winning it are fairly slim, too.
That means that they can tailor their approach to a degree, likely to be seeded for the new round-robin All-Ireland championship.
The league means different things to different counties and the disparity in preparation levels can throw up what look like seismic results. But we have to remember to take them with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Hopefully your favourite LIV Golf had a good opening to the new season last weekend in Mexico.
Apparently, Charles Howell III – last in the top 25 in a major tournament in 2018 – won the individual competition and helped his team to victory, too. His team are called the Crushers, competing against others like Fireballs, Ripper, Smash and Stinger – essentially, the names you’d get if you asked an energetic eight-year-old to come up with them.
I started the previous paragraph with ‘Apparently’ because I didn’t actually watch the event; nor, it seems did anyone else. While LIV trumpeted a television deal with America’s CW network, fewer people watched the competition on that than viewed ‘World’s Funniest Animals’, also shown by CW last weekend.
In contrast, while it was not a ‘designated’ week on the PGA Tour – a new approach which aims to fill fields with the biggest stars – the Honda Classic was still dramatic as Chris Kirk edged out Eric Cole in a play-off, denying the latter what would have been a first win at the age of 34.
Kirk and Cole are classic golf journeymen, operating below the elite level but still good enough to earn a living on the tour, having worked their way up. Such meritocratic action is far more appealing than a bunch of mainly has-beens playing in cut-less tournaments for a non-existent audience.
All too often nowadays, we hear about how the increased demands around professional sport have led to a disconnection with supporters, especially younger ones.
Players’ media appearances are carefully managed and sanitised to the point of non-interest, and paranoia around giving away anything that may be used by opponents means that training sessions are heavily guarded affairs.
It’s refreshing, therefore, to see that, with another rest weekend in the Six Nations Championship, Ireland held an open training session at Aviva Stadium on Thursday morning, with tickets free on a first-come, first-served basis.
I know, I should have flagged this last week so that you could try to get the tickets, but it is nevertheless a positive initiative and an acknowledgement that, without the supporters, sport loses so much of its lustre (see the LIV Golf section).
With Scotland unable to keep up their winning run in France, Ireland are now the only country that can win the Grand Slam – but the Scots could still take the Triple Crown.
We’ll look more at that next week, but in terms of last week’s win over Italy, the Ireland management will have been able to enjoy the best of both worlds this week.
The bonus-point win was achieved in Rome, albeit in a more difficult fashion than the general expectation might have been. Italy deserve credit for the way that they played.
Their overall performances have been an improvement this year and they will surely be targeting the Wales match as a chance to pick up a victory. Last Saturday was a message for Ireland that, if they are to see off all-comers, each win needs to be earned.