Monday, May 27, 2024

Sports Briefing: Scotland match a chance for Ireland to relaunch

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Is this Irish rugby team in danger of flattering to deceive? Well, if they fail to beat Scotland tomorrow, that, Johnny Watterson reckons, is the accusation that will be flung at them, the doubts seeping in after that loss to England which, he writes, “had an awful echo” of how Australia came back to beat Ireland at the death in their 1991 World Cup meeting at Lansdowne Road. “The sense in Twickenham was that England believed, as Australia did, that Ireland were vulnerable” and “too flimsy” to see out a tough game. The Scotland encounter, then, presents “the opportunity to recalibrate and relaunch” and show how this Irish side is “a superior model” to the ones of old that promised much “only to disappoint”.

Andy Farrell, need it be said, harbours no such negative thoughts, Gerry Thornley hearing from the coach when he announced an unchanged team for the game. Victory over Scotland would confirm Ireland as Six Nations champions “and ensure a swift trophy presentation in front of a capacity crowd”. But what will the atmosphere be like? Hopefully it won’t be “spoiled by drunken posh boys in and out of the bar and toilets throughout the entire match”, as one reader described their last Aviva Stadium experience. Rebecca Daly rounds up readers’ thoughts on what can be done to improve that experience at the venue.

Over at Cheltenham, meanwhile, there was a surprise British rally on Thursday, the “beleaguered home team” producing five of the day’s seven winners to narrow Ireland’s lead from 10-3 to 12-8, “enough to make it a case of game on,” writes Brian O’Connor. Gordon Elliott’s Teahupoo did, though, prevail in the Stayers’ Hurdles, the first seven home in that race Irish-trained.

With 25 runners in Friday’s seven races, Willie Mullins could well have yet another Cheltenham Day to remember, his star attraction Galopin Des Champs who will become only the eighth horse to win the Gold Cup more than once should he triumph in the 100th running of steeplechasing’s Blue Riband. L’Homme Presse is one of his rivals, Brian bringing the story of his jockey Charlie Deutsch whose career has been rejuvenated since he spent time in prison back in 2018.

In soccer, Gavin Cummiskey reports on John O’Shea’s first – and possibly final – Republic of Ireland squad announcement, a call-up for Sammie Szmodics, the Blackburn attacking midfielder who cannot stop scoring, catching the eye. The return to the Galway hurling set-up of Johnny Glynn has caught the eye too, Paul Keane writing about the second coming of the 2017 All Ireland winner.

In athletics, Sonia O’Sullivan shares her thoughts on the closure of the running track at the Mardyke, which is named in her honour, due to a deterioration of its surface, while in golf Philip Reid reports on a stupendous opening round for Rory McIlroy at The Players, 10 birdies putting him top of the leaderboard.

TV Watch: There’s a mountain of sport on your screens today, deep breath: Sky Sports Golf has round two of The Players Championship (11.30am-11pm), Virgin Media One and UTV bring you the final day of the Cheltenham Festival (1pm-4.30pm) and Premier Sports 1 have the first T20 meeting between Ireland and Afghanistan (from 4pm). Ireland, who trail England by a point in the table, play the final game of their Under-20 Six Nations campaign against Scotland this evening (Virgin Media Two, 7pm) and in football there’s a key game in the WSL, champions and leaders Chelsea hosting third-placed Arsenal (Sky Sports Premier League, 7pm) while Galway United are at home to Shamrock Rovers in the Airtricity League (RTÉ 2, 7.45pm).

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