Cork’s Sean O’Donoghue, Clare’s Shane Meehan, Limerick’s Declan Hannon and Tipperary’s Ronan Maher will play in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship. [Inpho/Morgan Treacy]

Clare tipped to beat champs

Judging by attendances on the first weekend of the All-Ireland football championship GAA supporters are becoming more selective as to which games they decide to attend. It’s obvious that many supporters will wait until the end of May when the country will be divided into two major groups, the top 16 in the Sam Maguire Cup and the second-tier Tailteann Cup. At that stage it will be serious and spectators know they will definitely get value for money when they go out and support their county. 

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The situation is different in hurling which has the Round Robin system with home and away games for the top 11 counties in Munster and Leinster, with Galway competing in the latter province. The Round Robin series should attract good attendances, starting on Sunday with the visit of reigning All-Ireland champions Limerick to Cusack Park, Ennis to take on Clare, the newly crowned National League champions. A full house  of 18,000 is expected to squeeze into the compact Ennis venue. Last year Clare were the only county to beat Limerick in a championship game when  turned up at the Gaelic Grounds to see the Banner win by a point. Limerick would go on to win the MacCarthy Cup for the fourth year in-a-row. I fancy Clare to do it again this year. 

When he was appointed Cork hurling manager just under two years ago Pat Ryan said that his three-year term would be regarded as a failure unless the Rebels won the MacCarthy Cup under his management. On Sunday, Cork start against Waterford in Walsh Park and it needs to be a winning start if the Rebels are to end their 19-year wait for the MacCarthy Cup. But you just never know with Waterford where manager Davy Fitzgerald is always talking up his team. There are also three Round Robin games in Leinster where Kilkenny are home to Antrim, Dublin travel to Wexford and Galway are home to Carlow.

It’s also a big football weekend and I hope to be in Killarney on Saturday afternoon for what many people regard as the real Munster final, even though the meeting of Kerry and Cork at Fitzgerald Stadium, is really only the semi-final. Waterford and Clare meet in the other semi-final in Dungarvan on Saturday. It has often been said that the GAA’s provincial councils are never going to dispense with their provincial championships, as it would be akin to turkeys voting for Christmas. Of course it’s all the fault of the Normans and the English Tudor Monarchs. The Normans started it all with Dublin being named the first county formed in 1190 and the last county to be shired was Wicklow in 1606. That county system has stood the test of time, but it’s a very unfair system when it comes to Gaelic football and hurling where inter-county rivalry is intense and players cannot transfer between counties. If you are born in Leitrim, you play for Leitrim. 

Talking of Leitrim, they are already out of the Connacht championship after losing to Sligo, who now play Galway in first of the Connacht semi-final at Markievicz Park on Saturday. The other Connacht semi-final is at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday where Roscommon play Mayo. Two big games in Ulster where we will have two of our top managers in opposition at Celtic Park on Saturday evening, Donegal’s Jim McGuinness and Derry’s Micky Harte. 

Following their National League final win over Dublin, Derry will be favorites to beat Donegal, while the second Ulster semi-final is on Sunday when Cavan play Tyrone at Breffni Park. The GAA are trying to accommodate club and county, but really the inter-county season is truncated, so that we can have the All-Ireland hurling and football finals decided by the end of July. I know the split season is important for the club scene, but I think a lot of GAA supporters would be much happier if we reverted to the traditional September All-Ireland finals.



The start and finish points for this year’s Dublin Marathon will remain in the city center for 2024, despite concerns raised over traffic disruption during the event. In its early day the Marathon was held on the October Bank Holiday Monday, but the date was moved to the last Sunday in October in 2016. After last year’s race, concerns were raised over the level of disruption caused to traffic in the city during the busy bank holiday weekend, suggesting the marathon's start and finish points could be moved out of the city centre. However, the marathon's organizers and Dublin City Council last week confirmed this year’s event will be held on Sunday, Oct. 27, and it will start on Leeson Street Lower and finish on Mount Street Upper. Last year’s race had a sell-out entry of 22,500, but only 16,540 showed up on the day, which led to the deadline for transferring or cancelling entries being pushed back this year. The transfer window will open from July 24 to Aug. 26, while the refund window is July 3-16. 



Former Irish international John Walters was last week appointed sporting director at Stoke City. Walters had been in the position with the Championship club since February on an interim basis and last week the Staffordshire club announced that Walters would remain in the role permanently going forward, 

Walters scored 62 goals in 271 appearances in all competitions during his seven years with the Potters, 2010 to 2017, and was on target 14 times in his 54 Ireland games. The former striker  has also served as technical director at Fleetwood Town, as well as sister club Waterford, before stepping down last May. Walters said: “The first priority is to retain our Championship status this season. After that, it’s a case of building brick-by-brick towards a long-term ambition of being better than we have ever been before. It’s going to take time, and there will be ups-and-downs along the way, but the mission is to create and sustain a team that truly represents the Club, our fans and the city of Stoke-on-Trent.’’


Hannah Dingley has been appointed as the new head of women and girls' football with the Football Association of Ireland. She replaces Eileen Gleeson after she moved to become head coach of the national team. Dingley, who is 40, was born in St Albans but moved to Carmarthenshire in Wales, as a child as her parents were from the area. She has worked as Academy manager at Forest Green Rovers since 2019, following previous spells with Burton Albion, Lincoln Ladies and Notts County. In July 2023, Dingley became the first female manager in men’s English professional football when she took charge of Forest Green Rovers on an interim basis following the sacking of Duncan Ferguson and the relegation to League Two.