Remember the name Sinéad Goldrick, as it’ll probably be a handy one for table quizzes in years to come.
Last weekend, the Dublin native together with Armagh native Blaithín Mackin helped the Melbourne Demons to victory in the Australian Football League Women’s Grand Final, beating a Brisbane Lions side that featured Orla O’Dwyer from Tipperary.
The achievement means that Goldrick becomes the first woman to win an All-Ireland and Australian rules title, joining Tadhg Kennelly of Kerry and the Sydney Swans, who was the first man to do so.
The presence of three Irish players in the women’s final reflects the influential minority in the AFLW since its inception in 2017 and the flow doesn’t look to be slowing down. Similarly, this year’s men’s final saw a win for a Geelong that counted Zach Tuohy of Laois and Kerry’s Mark O’Connor among its number.
Obviously, there are a couple of ways at looking at such an exodus and, by and large, your view will depend on your fidelity and loyalty to the GAA.
On the one hand, it’s great to see young Irish athletes go abroad and make names for themselves but, on the other, each departure has the effect of weakening a club and county at home.
Geelong’s next Irish star-in-waiting is Mayo’s Oisín Mullin. The winner of the 2020 and 2021 Young Player of The Year Award would surely have been someone that new county manager Kevin McStay would be seeking to build his defence around.
Equally, Conor McKenna, who played in Australia with Essendon from 2015-20 before returning home to win the 2021 All-Ireland with Tyrone, will be missed by the Red Hands as he resumes his AFL career with Brisbane in 2023.
Realistically, there is no way you can tell someone in their early 20s that having a crack at a career in professional sport is not worth trying.
As much as we take pride in the fact that the GAA remains an amateur organisation, this is an area where little can be done bar ‘creating’ jobs for county stars – but there is no real viability in that.
Vikki Wall, a two-time All-Ireland winner with Meath, and Cork’s Erika O’Shea have joined North Melbourne for 2023 and there is a sense that the women’s inter-county game is operating as a shop window of sorts at the moment. It may not please the traditionalists but some solace can be taken from the fact that the game has developed to such an extent that it is not such a leap to go from there to professional sport.
As we have mentioned more than once during the year, the GAA’s split-season has made for an unusual second half of the year in terms of media coverage.
After wall-to-wall exposure up until the end of July with games, the subsequent months have seen a pattern develop: first, the scramble for counties to find new managers, then All-Star speculation and, of course, potential Australian departures (see main piece). Along with some attention to club action, of course.
December was always a quiet time for GAA – though perhaps less so now as the All-Ireland senior club competitions build to an exciting crescendo – and so the lead-in to Christmas means it’s the perfect time for county boards to launch new kits.
Dublin and Limerick have been two of the higher-profile releases in recent weeks, while Cork brought forward their new offering earlier this week. There doesn’t seem to be any real over-arching theme from manufacturers O’Neills – Dublin’s is quite plain but with a good deal of navy colour-blocking alongside the lighter shade of blue; Limerick’s is heavy with various designs that might be said to be a bit too much, but then they benefit from the fact that sponsor JP McManus opts to keep the chest commercial-free; Cork’s is somewhere between the two, a small evolution on the previous jersey but with some extra white trim.
In one sense, what the designers come up with isn’t of huge importance as they are dealing with captive audiences – often, the sales success of a kit depends more on what is achieved by the players wearing it rather than how it objectively looks.
The great thing for the Santa lists is that, in December, everyone can dream of wearing their replica top in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day.
Leona Maguire finished her 2022 golf season with fourth place in the Spanish Open last weekend, giving her ten top-10 placings for the year as well as finishing in the top 10 on both the American and European tours.
Coming in a tie for eighth in the US Open and level fourth in the British Open, the Cavan native displayed incredible consistency and one would have to imagine that she will only improve on that in 2023.
Positive signs in rugby
The autumn rugby internationals are hardly over but the Heineken Champions Cup is just around the corner.
We’ll leave that and its byzantine format until next week – more space is required to properly explain things – but Munster will be encouraged at how they are looking as Europe comes into view.
It’s not too long ago that their slow URC start was leaving us fearing that they might not make the Champions Cup next season but the win over South Africa in Páirc Uí Chaoimh gave them a boost and they followed it up with a win over Connacht last weekend.
They are now up to ninth, while Connacht are in a tie for 13th (though just three points behind Munster). Meanwhile, Leinster and Ulster are cruising in the top two spots, ready to push on as things get a bit more serious.
We hesitate to tempt fate, but the overall picture at national and international level is quite good – let’s see how things go over the next few weeks.