It was another fascinating weekend of sport all over the country with top-class action in the worlds of rugby, football and GAA.
The NatWest 6 Nations won’t get the Grand Slam decider we had anticipated, while the League of Ireland is up and running with all sides apart from Derry having now had a home game and there was a hectic 48 hours in the Allianz National Leagues.
Here are three of the biggest stories now that we can reflect on what we just saw – and what they mean going forward.
The Shamrock soars as the Red Rose wilts
Just after the half-hour mark at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland’s Grand Slam ambitions were skating on very thin ice. A fired-up Welsh side had weathered the Irish onslaught and were eight points to the good.
The response from the Irish was emphatic in the extreme. Three tries in the period just before, and after the half-time break blitzed the visitors and brought some measure of order to what had been a chaotic contest.
To Wales’ eternal credit they refused to buckle, and in the final frenetic moments, Jacob Stockdale’s break-away try finally extinguished the Welsh hopes of a win.
Another bonus point in the bag for Joe Schmidt’s warriors was another welcome perk, from an impressive performance against a traditionally obdurate Celtic cousin.
As the Shamrock continues to soar, the Red Rose continues to wilt, as Scotland powered past Eddie Jones startled troops, at a rocking BT Murrayfield Stadium. The Scots hit the ground running, and the visitors were unable to settle, as the Gregor Townsend’s men finally put one over on the Auld Enemy.
As Ireland discovered last season, Scotland are a different proposition on home soil, and only a fortunate new Zealand, have lowered their colours in recent times in Edinburgh.
The English may well have won the last two championships, but they lost at the tail-end of the championship to Ireland last season, as they let the Grand Slam slip away from their grasp in Dublin.
This season’s efforts have been of the stuttering variety, which is hardly befitting a team seeking three-in-a-row. They have struggled to beat Italy and Wales, before last Saturday’s meek surrender in the Scottish capital.
Scotland just kept them off balance here, as England’s rigid structures suffered an alarming meltdown.
While they may well yet secure a measure of revenge, against Ireland on St Patrick’s Day, their form has slipped alarmingly, and talks of a world number one slot seem light years away now.
Are Cork City the new Dundalk?
The Rebels won the double last season and look on course to follow up already. Having played second fiddle to Dundalk for a number of seasons, John Caulfield’s charges look to have finally, and permanently, escaped from shadows of the Oriel Park outfit.
They have recruited smartly and Graham Cummins, who scored a hat-trick against Sligo on Tuesday night, is off the flyer.
If City continue in this vein, a misfiring Dundalk will have left themselves to steep a mountain to climb yet again.
They had a sluggish start last season, as their raft of new signings took time to bed in. Dundalk have started with two 0-0 draws and will be looking for their first win – and first goal – when they take on Limerick on Wednesday.
Stephen Kenny will be doing everything he can over the coming weeks, to ensure lightning doesn’t strike twice, but it looks like the Co Louth side could be playing second fiddle to the Leesiders once again.
Tipperary vs Kilkenny is one of the greatest rivalries
The cast may well have changed but the storyline remains the same.
The 10,000 plus there were treated to a rip-roaring contest in brilliant sunshine.
Naysayers who decried the importance of the fixture, as both sides fielded experimental line-ups, neglected to check their history books. Tipperary and Kilkenny simply do not do shadow boxing. If Sunday’s evidence is anything to go by, the next wave of Tipperary and Kilkenny will add a good many more chapters to this fantastic hurling rivalry.
While Waterford and Galway stood up last year, expect Tipp and Kilkenny to have a say this summer.
Eddie Ryan, Pundit Arena