Santa came early for a number of clubs on a busy GAA weekend, not least Kilmacud Crokes and Ballygunner who both completed a three-in-a-row in their respective provinces. The task of rounding up the action fell to Seán Moran who must surely have wondered where to start, five provincial titles in all decided with the line-up for this season’s All-Ireland semi-finals due to be completed next weekend.
Denis Walsh was in the perishing cold of Semple Stadium to witness Ballygunner warm the cockles of their supporters’ hearts with a brilliant performance against Clare’s Clonlara, the Waterford side becoming the first to win three Munster club hurling championships in row.
And Gordon Manning was in Croke Park to see O’Loughlin Gaels nudge past Na Fianna in the Leinster final, Cushendall their next opponents after they beat Slaughtneil to win their first Ulster title since 2018.
In the football championship, Seán was on duty at Dr Hyde Park where Roscommon champions St Brigid’s caused an upset by beating favourites Corofin to collect their first Connacht crown in 11 years, while Ian O’Riordan saw yet another Shane Walsh moment of magic seal Kilmacud’s victory over Naas.
In the midst of it all, Denis somehow found time to write about volunteerism in the GAA. The dictionary definition of the term points to people “who freely offer to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task”, but a GAA volunteer is ”somebody who was asked and said ‘Yes’, quite possibly after first saying ‘No’. They didn’t step forward, they were smoked out”.
In soccer, Ken Early doffs his cap to the “obstinacy” of Ange Postecoglou’s tactical approach, which is, to say the least, adventurous, quoting Pep Guardiola’s salute to the Spurs manager who, he said, “makes football a better place”.
Leinster were a bit obstinate themselves at the Sportsground on Saturday, refusing to lose against a Connacht side that looked to have the game won until Ciarán Frawley’s late, late try. “Connacht have suffered some acutely painful defeats against Leinster over the years, but few more cruel than this,” writes Gerry Thornley, who heard Leo Cullen salute his players’ resilience after the game.
It was a good weekend too for Munster who ran in six tries against Glasgow Warriors to get back to winning ways in the defence of their URC title, but there was no joy for Ulster who fell to their second successive defeat to Scottish opposition, Edinburgh their conquerors this time around.
In athletics, the remarkable Fionnuala McCormack qualified for a record fifth Olympics by running 2:26:19 in the Valencia marathon, while in Australia Orla O’Dwyer and Jennifer Dunne helped Brisbane beat North Melbourne in the AFLW grand final, O’Dwyer cementing her status as “the pre-eminent Irish import to women’s Aussie rules” by collecting her second premiership medal.
TV Watch: You can catch up on the weekend’s GAA action and rugby highlights on TG4 for the former, and on RTÉ 2′s Against the Head for the latter – but both start at 8pm, so either find a second telly, or click your record button.