Damian Stack: It’s probably now or never if Lewis Hamilton fancies a Ferrari switch

The Briton’s great hero, Ayrton Senna, tragically missed out on the chance to race for Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton (right) – speaking to current Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz – is out of contract at the end of the year with rumours linking him with a move to the Scuderia for next season Photo by Sergei Grits/AP

Damian StackKerryman

There is, and there always will be, a mystique around the marque.

Its glamour undimmed by a lack of contemporary sustained success. Hell if anything that only adds to the allure for a racing driver. If only they could be the one to turn it all around, to win in red, well that’s the stuff of legend isn’t it?

It’s the very thing that’s drawn people to Maranello for generations. From Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, to Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, they’ve all tried, and failed, to win with the Scuderia. Champions all, just never with Ferrari, despite sometimes Herculean efforts.

What Prost did in 1990 against the might of McLaren to take the title down to the wire, what Alonso did in 2012 in a dog of a car, shows the commitment these guys have to making it happen.

That they didn’t, that these legends of the sport couldn’t manage it, should act as a warning others tempted to give it a go, and yet it never does. That’s the power of the team Enzo built, of the legend he constructed.

If reports are to be believed – and they do seem to be credible – the latest to be drawn to the red squad is none other than seven-time champion, Lewis Hamilton.

A report in the Daily Mail suggests talks are on-going about a potential £40m-a-year switch away from Mercedes for the British racer. Even for somebody with vast wealth in the bank, that’s a figure to catch the eye.

Somehow, though, we don’t think the money will be the determining factor here. It’s whether or not Hamilton will let heart over-rule head and switch to the world’s most famous race-team, and most famous car brand.

Having won it all with Mercedes, having spent a decade with the Brackley squad, there’s sure to be a certain allure to a fresh challenge. Not alone that at 38-years-of-age it’s kind of a now-or-never type proposition for the English man.

Honestly, we kind of hope he goes for it. Having somebody of his stature at Ferrari could help the squad up their game, and attract talent in the manner in which Michael Schumacher did in the 1990s with Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne.

It would also just be one hell of a great story, no matter how it plays out, and yeah, there would be risks to it from Hamilton’s point of view. Not just from a competitive point of view either.

Leaving Mercedes could jeopardise his potential for a long-term, lucrative post retirement relationship with the car-manufacturer, but he’s so wealthy anyway, he could take the risk and the hit if it came to that.

Besides he’s always going to be a seven-time championship winner with Mercedes engines, so we’re sure the powers that be at Stuttgart wouldn’t hold it against him in the long-term. Just as the powers that be in Turin didn’t hold it against Schumacher went he signed for Mercedes back in the day.

Cold-hard logic would suggest that Hamilton should stay with Merc. They’re as close to winning again as Ferrari are at present (which isn’t very), but you’d probably back them to get there again before Ferrari do.

For once, though, you’d rather hope that instead of logic, romance might win out. In going to Ferrari, Hamilton would not alone follow in the footsteps of so many greats, he would also be fulfilling a dream of his idol, the late, great Ayrton Senna.

Tragically Senna never got the chance to race in red, Hamilton shouldn’t let the chance pass him by.

These Cork hurlers will win All Irelands

Even though it left them in a tricky enough spot, we think the Cork hurling fraternity should be quietly satisfied after last weekend’s action in the Munster Hurling Championship.

Obviously it would have been better to have won in Ennis, to have their place in the knock-out stages of the championship secured, even so they’re clearly a side going places.

The Rebels have had their fair share of false dawns over the years as the longest famine in the county’s history stretches on and on, but this feels a bit different.

This feels not only more sustainable – the young players Cork have coming through look top, top notch – but also more grounded. There’s a doggedness and a cussedness to this Cork side.

There were times when it looked like Clare had got on top of Pat Ryan’s side in Cusack Park, when it looked as though they were in position to streak away, and Cork never allowed that to happen.

From eight points down after just two minutes of the second half (after Tony Kelly rifled home a penalty past Patrick Collins), Cork much never looked like wilting.

Their recovery to get the game level – Patrick Horgan’s goal in the 64th minute goal doing a lot of the heavy lifting – heading into the final exchanges spoke to a real steel in the spine of this side.

With it comes an increasingly harder edge, under Ryan they’re shedding the nice hurlers label. They still have all those things that make Cork, Cork – speed and skill and an enviable dexterity – they’ve just been added to.

Niall O’Leary looks to have gone up a gear or two. Damien Cahalane has reached a new level again. Ciarán Joyce looks as good as what’s out there at number 6. Brian Roche, meanwhile, looks to be the near perfect foil for Darragh Fitzgibbon.

Little wonder people are getting excited about this side’s potential and it’s a far from misplaced expectation. This Cork team will win All Irelands under Pat Ryan sooner rather than later.

Cork manager Pat Ryan at Cusack Park in Ennis last weekend Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

How soon? In the next couple of years for sure, just maybe not this year... which is not to say they can’t beat Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds this Sunday afternoon.

The longer the week has gone on, the more unsure we’ve become of our initial assumption that Limerick on their home patch would simply have too much for the Rebels.

That may well end up being the case, but something tells us there won’t be as much in it as people think. Limerick aren’t quite the all-conquering force they have been.

Cian Lynch (who to be fair has missed a lot of hurling) and Gearóid Hegarty were both taken off against Tipperary in Semple on Sunday, it’s not quite the well-oiled machine we’re familiar with.

And, yet, for all that Limerick have been knocking on the door in every game they’ve played. They despatched Waterford – albeit slightly unconvincingly – lost to Clare by a point and drew with Tipperary. That’s in the ball park of where they need to be.

There were flashes of what John Kiely’s men are capable of against Tipperary – even under immense pressure – and if they can rouse themselves fully they’re still probably just about favourites to do the five in-a-row.

For now, though, the Champs do look that bit vulnerable.

Wexford are not too good to go down

We don’t for one moment question the man’s bona fides as a hurling man. As a matter of fact he oozes passion for the subject. Not alone that, his heart very much is in the right place, but it’s a line that jarred with us nevertheless.

It would be bad for hurling, former Limerick hurler and manager TJ Ryan said on the Irish Examiner’s Monday GAA podcast, if Wexford were relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup.

You can see where he’s coming from. It’s not good that one of the more established hurling counties is in such obvious decline, but the unspoken implication is that it wouldn’t be bad for hurling if Antrim or Westmeath, the other teams in danger of the drop from Leinster, were to drop down instead, which is a premise we’d dispute.

The progress being made by Antrim – who probably should have beaten Dublin in Corrigan Park first day out – and Westmeath – who claimed that remarkable victory over Wexford on the weekend – is as valuable surely to the game of hurling as keeping a somewhat moribund Wexford team around just for the sake of history and tradition.

Wexford manager Darragh Egan gives instructions to his team Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

It probably would be no harm either for Wexford – who haven’t won an All Ireland minor title in something like forty years – to be relegated, to get that shock to the system, to allow all the stakeholders in the county to take stock and plot a way back.

Just look at how relegation to the Christy Ring Cup – not even the McDonagh Cup! – helped galvanise hurling in Offaly. Since Kerry relegated them to the Christy Ring in 2019, Offaly have firmly been on an upward trajectory.

They’ve won minor and Under 20 titles in Leinster for the first time in decades and with promotions in both league and championship, plus the chance to be promoted back to senior hurling this weekend with a likely victory in the Joe McDonagh Cup final over Carlow, the Faithful look very much like they’re on the way back properly.

It is a bit mad to think that a county who were in the All Ireland semi-final just four years ago such as Wexford could be relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup, but that’s not to say Wexford should be guaranteed a spot in the Liam MacCarthy in perpetuity.

If they’re good enough they’ll stay up, if they’re not they won’t, it’ll be neither good nor bad for hurling, it’ll just be what it is.