Last weekend was a pretty good one for sports fans from the Emerald Isle.

Firstly, there was the thrilling, resounding, relentless excellence of the national rugby team in defeating, nay, trouncing, the wonderful All Blacks at the Aviva stadium, which was full to bursting for the first time since pre-Covid days.  The outstanding All Blacks defence was responsible for keeping the scoreline close for the majority of the match but the men in green were dominant and deservedly triumphed by 29 points to 20.

What a day! What a match! [Photo from Irish Rugby twitter feed.]

Never, ever believe anyone who tries to tell you that armchair sport is not exhausting.  I was completely wrung out by the end of the eighty minutes – but I’d still have given an arm and a leg to have been in Dublin for the celebrations.  There’s nowhere quite like the fair city after an Irish rugby victory of that magnitude.  The pubs are so full that newly purchased pints of the black stuff are passed overhead by one customer to another until they reach their destination – there’s simply never room for bar staff to navigate their way through the mass of wall-to-wall people.  It’s completely joyous and evenings like that are filed away under the “never-to-be-forgotten” label.

After a good night’s sleep I was back on my Meadow/Maguire watch in the LPGA’s Pelican Women’s Championship at Belleair in Florida.  Leona Maguire was the more relaxing of the two to keep tabs on because I was just hoping that she might cap a superlative season with a first LPGA tour victory.  It became obvious that her fans would just have to wait a little longer when she struggled in the final round but she will have rested up for her tilt this week at the CME Group Tour Championship at Naples in Florida.

Leona notching another point for Europe in the Solheim Cup – one of my favourite photos of the year. [Tris Jones, LET]

Stephanie Meadow (picture at top) was another matter altogether.  She was playing last week on a sponsor’s invitation and arrived at Belleair in 101st place in the rankings.  This was the final full field event of the season after which the top 100 would keep their playing privileges for next season.  There is stress and pressure at every level in sport but to have one round of golf determine if you have a job next year is brutal.  Meadow had successfully weathered just such a battle two years ago and she was triumphant again, her four under par weekend total ushering her safely into that 100th spot.

At the start of the week Stephanie declared her plan was to “chill and pray that I don’t have to go to Q-Series”.  Part 2 of that plan was accomplished in style but was she really, really able to chill?  I doubt it very much indeed.  Golfers become very adept at subjugating their true feelings when in the playing arena – usually because those very feelings can lead to negativity if given house room.  There is no time for a post mortem during the round and when you are playing to keep your card there is as much grit and resilience needed as there is up at the top end of the leaderboard.

Steph Meadow snaffles that last place for an automatic card for 2022. [Steph’s twitter feed]

Talking of the top of the leaderboard, world No 1 Nelly Korda looked to be coasting to her fourth tour win of the season – and then she tripled the17th, giving oxygen and hope to a trio of major winners on her tail.  Indeed, Nelly had to birdie the last just to make the play-off.  She birdied it again twenty minutes later to take the title, a wonderful display of mental resilience after seemingly throwing away a winning position.  It was yet another example of the really great players being able to banish from their minds thoughts of any errors committed.

It’s not that the top men and women don’t hit poor shots – they do.  It’s just that the best of them then proceed to produce tournament-winning shots while others slide into a funk of self criticism.  Nellie’s control of her mental game was supreme and allowed her physical game to shine without interference, resulting in a finish on top of the podium yet again.

Nelly Korda, world No 1 – living up to all the hype. [LPGA twitter feed]

Meanwhile, my own winter golf is under way and I’m managing to get out for a few holes a couple of times a week.  My golf, as always, leaves a lot to be desired but I’ve learned not to bother too much about that.  There is something that really does rile me, however, and it is more apparent at this time of year than perhaps it is in the summer:  Have folk forgotten the art of repairing a pitchmark?

Our beautiful greens are awash with them and there is simply no excuse for it.  It must be galling for the greenstaff and it’s so disrespectful to your fellow golfers and is, quite frankly, the height of bad manners.  One of the first things we were taught when we started the game was to leave the course in better shape than you found it.  Repairing a pitchmark is one thing that can make you feel like a decent golfer even if you’re not.  Perhaps a few more could be encouraged to try it?


Ok – rant over.  And breathe………………