Readers of a certain vintage will recall how, once upon a time, Féile meant a pilgrimage to Semple Stadium.

This weekend, the staging of the Féile na nGael hurling competitions in Wexford were the motivation for trying to avoid the trip to Tipp on Saturday and hoping that it could be on Sunday instead.

Not unreasonably, Wexford suggested, the people volunteering to ensure the smooth running of the Féile would also be those most likely to follow the county’s senior hurling team as they meet Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Wexford asked that the match and clash between Cork and Dublin go to Sunday, swapping with the Tailteann Cup semi-finals in Croke Park, which had been set aside for live television coverage.

Unfortunately for the Model County, the fixture list had been set since the beginning of the year, with the added wrinkle of the Saturday games being on early due to RTÉ’s contractual obligation to show the URC final. The fact that fixture is now an Irish-free zone certainly doesn’t help the overall sentiment of frustration.

A special meeting of Central Council showed some support for Wexford’s case but, as Tony McEntee – manager of Tailteann semi-finalists Sligo – said, it would have been very unfair to upscuttle everybody else to satisfy one county.

With things having been laid out so far in advance, it was going to take something exceptional to change the schedule for so many at just a week’s notice. In order to avoid anything like this in the future, might we suggest that the hurling Féile be scheduled for a football-only weekend and vice-versa?

Munster final

Away from such a sideshow, the games themselves provide enough intrigue. Having fallen short against Limerick for the third year in a row in the Munster final, can Clare summon the energy needed to get over a Wexford side that will be happy to be in the long grass? Equally, will a 16-point defeat to Kilkenny be something that Dublin can bounce back from against a Cork side that didn’t sparkle against Offaly but didn’t need to?

It’s not southern bias to say that we would be inclined to predict a pair of Munster wins but the underdogs have the potential for upsets, perhaps more so in Wexford’s case.

The aforementioned Sligo face Down in the Tailteann Cup with Antrim up against Laois but, even with the headquarters setting, those matches will still be overshadowed by the preliminary quarter-finals of the football championship.

It’s not outlandish to suggest that it may be the last year this round slots into the calendar. The fact that teams who have lost three times this year, once in their province and twice in the group-stage, are still theoretically in the race for the All-Ireland does dilute the championship feel, but at least we are now properly at the knockout stage.

On paper, the pick of the games is Mayo versus Derry, or it would be if the Oak Leaf County were still in the form that had won them the league – rather than suffering three straight championship losses, and then doing enough to nudge out Westmeath last Saturday evening. Having avoided defeat against Dublin, Mayo will relish the chance to get to Croke Park with some momentum behind them.

Home advantage should see Galway and Tyrone past Monaghan and Roscommon respectively; while Louth versus Cork could be the tightest battle. It will be the fifth clash between the counties across league and championship over the past two years – the previous four have seen two wins each with no margin of victory greater than four points.

Semi final sadness

Dejected Munster players, from left, Jack Crowley, Alex Kendellen, Peter O'Mahony and Conor Murray after the United Rugby Championship semi-final match between Munster and Glasgow Warriors at Thomond Park in Limerick. \ Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

As touched upon elsewhere, the final of the United Rugby Championship will see South African side the Bulls host Glasgow at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening. This is after both overcame Irish semi-final opposition.

For Leinster, Saturday’s away defeat brought a disappointing end to a season that once again promised so much. On top of the three straight Champions Cup final defeats, they have been unable to secure the domestic title since 2021. That such a talented group should go so long without silverware is mind-boggling.

Munster’s disappointment will be as acute and different at the same time. The reigning champions, they had bounced back from disappointing European displays to top the table and secure home-field advantage throughout the play-offs. However, unfortunately, they never really got going against Glasgow at Thomond Park.

Obviously, there can only be one winner in each competition each season but for Ireland’s supremacy at international level in Europe not to be reflected on the club scene does provide a degree of worry. Not a massive one but it’s there all the same.

Misses will haunt Rory McIlroy

Individual sport is tough. A competitor has to put his or herself out there against all-comers, knowing that they cannot hide or take the soft option if they want to achieve their ultimate aims. When they fail, they know that they must look in the mirror to examine why.

A decade ago, with four golf majors won by the age of 25 – something only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had achieved – Rory McIlroy was in Alexander The Great territory, with no worlds left to conquer. That that tally has remained static since is perplexing.

With age and maturity comes doubt, as swashbuckling exuberance is stymied somewhat. McIlroy has contended at countless majors – even more frustratingly, at countless others he has started badly and then ripped through the field for a back-door top ten – but has not got over the line.

At some of those, like the 2022 Open Championship won by Australia’s Cameron Smith, he was beaten by a player in ethereal form. He does not have such a ‘comfort’ after last weekend’s US Open, when missed short putts at the 16th and 18th holes left him one behind Bryson DeChambeau.

The easy line is to say that he will never have a better chance to win another. That’s a cliché and need not be true. But for it not to be the case will require some deep self-analysis and some near-flawless golf.