Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton reacts after he missed a crucial late penalty  against New Zealand in 2013. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Memories of agonising missed opportunity in 2013 motivate outhalf and squad

Johnny Sexton has confirmed his fitness after he was substituted in Leinster’s Champions Cup defeat to Montpellier. Photograph: Afp

Sexton let Nacewa kick against Montpellier in the knowledge he would not play the full 80

Charismatic centre Bundee Aki  has signed a three-year extension to bring his stay at Connacht up to the summer of 2020. Photograph: Inpho

Kiwi can become a key figure at the 2019 World Cup – for Ireland or Samoa

Tomás O’Leary in European action against Leinster at the Stade Altrad on Sunday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Scrumhalf enjoying new adventure with Montpellier after being let go by Munster

Leinster’s Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton reacts during the European Rugby Champions Cup rugby match between Montpellier and Leinster at the Altrad stadium in Montpellier, southern France. Photo: Getty Images

Leinster decision to remove Sexton and O’Brien at half-time shows new trend

Leinster’s Luke McGrath goes through during their Champions Cup clash with Montpellier. Photo: Inpho

Leo Cullen’s side at least managed to salvage a bonus point from a scrappy affair in France

Jonathan Sexton: alway a significant addition to any Leinster selection. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Pieces falling into place again for Leo Cullen as O’Brien, Healy and Sexton return

Frans Steyn of Montpellier is tackled by Teimana Harrison of Northampton Saints during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Northampton Saints and Montpellier at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton, England. Photo: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Leinster’s opponents backboned by former world champions who face worrying talent drain

Leinster Rugby Head coach Leo Cullen speaks at a press conference ahead of their Champions Cup clash with Montpellier. Photo: Inpho

The Leinster coach spoke about their time as Ireland teammates ahead of trip to France

Anthony Foley of Munster is tackled by Victor Costello of the rest of Ireland during a friendly in 2001. Photo: Andrew Paton/Inpho

The former Ireland international looks back on his rivalry with the man from Killaloe

Exeter Chiefs and Clermont Auvergne respect a minutes silence for Munster coach Anthony Foley before the European Champions Cup, pool five match at Sandy Park, Exeter. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Donal Lenihan and Len Dinneen were among those to remember the Munster head coach

 Paddy Jackson: Ulster have enough experience to win, but it could need their outhalf  to at least break even with Ian Madigan. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye

Ian Madigan knows he is in shop window for Ireland place as Champions Cup kicks off

Leinster captain  Isa Nacewa ran in  the bonus-point  try despite the attempted tackle of Castres’ Robert Ebersohn. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Young outhalf shows off his distribution and off-the-cuff play behind powerful scrum

 Ian Madigan: “I know I am up against it when it comes to (Ireland) selection but if I keep my head down over here, do the best I can do, that’s all I can control.”  Photo: Getty Images

Bordeaux outhalf may be enjoying his new life in France but he still harbours Irish ambitions

Leinster’s Joey Carbery runs in his and Leinster’s second try in their Pro12 clash with Treviso at the RDS. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The Dubliners will need to be on their game to ensure an expected victory over Castres

Ireland and Bordeaux flyhalf Ian Madigan says legal steroids are a perfectly normal part of rugby. Photo: Inpho

Bordeaux player was speaking to The Irish Times ahead of clash with Ulster

Leinster’s Jack McGrath with Robbie Henshaw and Jamison Gibson-Park after their win against Munster in the Pro12. Photo: Inpho

Prop is on a roll for province and country as he enters a busy period of the season

On Ireland staying at Trump Tower, the IRFU said “there was a limited choice of hotels available because of a packaging conference in Chicago that same week.” Photographs: Getty Images

‘Hotel has capacity to house the team’, says IRFU prior to All Blacks game at Soldier Field

James Cronin: A ban would put severe pressure on Munster’s loosehead position,  as Dave Kilcoyne was forced off last weekend against Leinster with concussion. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Player will face suspension of from two weeks to up to 16-plus weeks if found guilty

James Cronin (R) has been cited for a stamp during Munster’s defeat to Leinster. Photograph: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Prop could face lengthy ban after incident with Jamison Gibson-Park

Connacht captain John Muldoon and Michael Swift after the province’s famous win over Toulouse in 2013. Photograph: Inpho

European aristocrats Stade Toulousain return west with the champions lying in wait

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: is  instructed what number of minutes he can select Ireland players for. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Putting the national team first is all about revenue, but the Pro12 suffers as a result

Republic of Ireland midfielder Wes Hoolahan in action against  Gheorghe Andronic of Moldova during the World Cup qualifier at Stadionul Zimbru in Chisinau. Photograph:  Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey rates Martin O’Neill’s men after their qualifier win in Chisinau

Robbie Henshaw seamlessly slipped back into the groove on his Leinster debut. Photograph: Inpho

Sexton-Henshaw-Ringrose triumverate fires in front of Ireland boss Joe Schmidt

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony is blocked by referee David Wilkinson as Luke McGrath of Leinster runs past. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘It wasn’t like it was good attacking play that led to us giving the 14 points away’

Seamus Coleman’s goal secured a precious three points for Ireland on a turgid night at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Inpho/Morgan Treacy

Captain’s goal gives agricultural hosts a win but performance leaves plenty to be desired

James McClean was one of Ireland’s brighter performers as they scraped past Georgia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Getty

Gavin Cummiskey rates Martin O’Neill’s side after a scrappy win at the Aviva Stadium

Munster’s CJ Stander: one of those to qualify to play for Ireland under the current three-year rule. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Three-year residency rule has proved very beneficial to Ireland in recent years

EPCR director general Vincent Gaillard at the launch of the  European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup  at Dublin Convention Centre. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

EPCR director general Vincent Gaillard hoping new measures will be in place for knockout stages

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor misses a late free to level the score. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Cillian O’Connor’s contribution impossible to ignore but Robert Hennelly’s selection a disastrous one

Diarmuid Connolly celebrates with the Sam Maguire Cup after Dublin’s victory over Mayo in the All-Ireland SFC Final Replay at Croke Park. Photograph:  Donall Farmer/Inpho

Bench again proves crucial for Jim Gavin’s side as Sam Maguire stays in the capital

Pat McEnaney sends off Liam McHale and Colm Coyle in the 1996 All-Ireland final. Photograph: Inpho

Monaghan man took charge of two more finals but he is forever linked to 1996

Ronan O’Gara believes Racing 92 are struggling to cope with success after winning last year’s Top 14 title. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘You are champions there is a target on your back. You come into a local town and everyone wants to beat you’

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly with Lee Keegan of Mayo during the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The pair renewed their rivalry at Croke Park with the encounter ending in a stalemate

Aidan O’Shea of Mayo with James McCarthy of Dublin during the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey evaluates the performances of Stephen Rochford’s men

Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo scores an own goal during the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final between Mayo and Dublin at Croke Park. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

A scrappy but enthralling game at Croke Park saw Mayo force a replay late on

Ciarán Kilkenny shoots for Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland minor final against Tipperary. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

All-Ireland finalists enjoying plentiful harvest having sowed seeds at underage level

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton with Michael Darragh MacAuley during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final with Donegal. Photo:  Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Conor Mortimer: You won’t find many more mentally strong than the Dublin goalkeeper

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at the end of the match. Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters

Boxing is full of fabricated animosity but when the bell rings it really is very primal

Munster man felt it was important to take step back after playing days ended

 Richard Dunne during his days playing for the Republic of Ireland. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Ex-international and sport psychologist differ on why Ireland can’t cope with leading

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan: “I wouldn’t have minded what my role was, once you were involved with this group.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Liam MacCarthy win shows other counties that Kilkenny are mortal and can be beaten

Tipperary’s Pádraic Maher: “If we had lost yesterday it would have been very hard to come back.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fear of losing to Kilkenny drove team but belief saw them through, says Pádraic Maher

Darren Randolph made a number of key stops in Ireland’s 2-2 draw with Serbia. Photograph: Reuters

Gavin Cummiskey rates Martin O’Neill’s side after their agricultural draw in Belgrade

Leinster’s new senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

‘I think I come back a better coach now and I think I can give that to Leinster Rugby’

John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer of Tipperary celebrates scoring a goal against Kilkenny at Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Paul Murphy could not contain John O’Dwyer as he continually denied him the ball

Tipperary’s Padraic Maher celebrates after his side beat Kilkenny to win the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship title. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Gavin Cummiskey runs the rule over the 2016 All-Ireland SHC champions

John McGrath scored Tipperary’s second goal in their All-Ireland final victory over Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho

Brian Cody’s Kilkenny finally dethroned as Michael Ryan’s Tipp run riot at Croke Park

Ruan Pienaar: “I wanted to stay and I know Ulster Rugby did everything it could to keep me in Belfast.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The IRFU must realise that foreign players are good for provinces and for Irish rugby

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer celebrates his goal against Galway in the semi-final. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Tipperary’s hero of 2010 final believes, if anything, Cats are getting a little stronger

Richie Power, 8-time All-Ireland winner with Kilkenny, joined St Judes club representative Brendan McManamon to officially launch this year’s Volkswagen All-Ireland Junior Hurling Sevens, which will take place in St. Judes GAA club on Saturday 3rd September. Photo: Sportsfile

The eight-time All-Ireland winner with Kilkenny was forced to retire from hurling

Kilkenny’s Richie Power scores their first goal of the game during the 2014 All-Ireland SHC final against Tipperary. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Classy forward has found retirement from the intercounty game difficult to deal with

Diarmuid Connolly scores Dublin’s final point in the  All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Kerry  at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Gifted forward applied the coup de grâce to Kingdom with his final point

Jim Gavin: “We are very much, in some respects, open and vulnerable. That is very much part of our game plan. We accept against a team like Kerry they are going to score against you. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dublin manager praises team’s control in All-Ireland football semi-final win over Kerry

Dublin manager Tommy Carr argues with referee Mick Curley during the 2001 All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry in Thurles.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Likes of McCaffrey, Kilkenny and Mannion products of the county’s underage system

Peter O’Mahony: “It certainly does make it frustrating [being injured] because you want to be on the pitch and influencing training.” Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Inspirational captain almost ready to return to action after a year out due to injury

Denis Bastick: “Having come back  after winning it is very much in your mind what we did in ’11, what we did after ’13 when we weren’t able to go back to back.” Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Even the subsequent wins over the Kingdom have not erased the Dublin veteran’s pain

Dublin senior football manager Jim Gavin speaks ahead of the Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland semi-final. Photograph: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Manager Jim Gavin explains how Kerry’s unpredictability has shaped his strategy

Chief executive of Pro12 Martin Anayi. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Plans also afoot to reduce number of games and increase participation of internationals

Former Connacht, Leinster and Ulster player Cillian Willis is set to sue Sale Sharks over a concussion injury. Photograph: Inpho

Case will the first time a professional rugby player has sued over head trauma

Kerry’s Tommy Walsh with Michael Fitzsimons and Cian O’Sullivan of Dublin. Stopping O’Sullivan will be key to Kerry’s chances of victory. Photograph: Inpho

Tomás Ó Flatharta says Éamonn Fitzmaurice will be pragmatic in All-Ireland semi-final

The eldest of the three brothers, Seamus O’Shea gets to grips with Tipperary’s Ciaran McDonald during the All-Ireland semi-finals. Photograph: Inpho

Eldest of the three Seamus says side need to produce longer periods of dominance

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns says he is proud of his team. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

After the game captain Peter Acheson confirmed that he was emigrating next year

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford during the All-Ireland football semi-final against Tipperary on Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho.

Manager Stephen Rochford just glad to have All-Ireland final to look forward to

 Dominic Ryan is tackled by Joe Latta during Leinster’s pre-season win over Gloucester. Photograph: Inpho/Gary Carr

Leo Cullen’s experimental side score four tries in Gloucester friendly at Tallaght

OCI President Pat Hickey is escorted from hospital on Thursday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Failure’s easier to interview than success - Cheerleader or journalist. There’s a fine line

 Canterbury has revealed the new Leinster alternate jersey to be worn away from home throughout the 2016/17 season. Photograph: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

New Leinster centre says he has greatly benefited from using a sports psychologist

Dublin football manager Jim Gavin. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Dublin manager claims game would benefit from pre-match meetings with officials

 Leinster’s Jordi Murphy with participants at the Leinster Rugby Camp at Blackrock College RFC. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Healy is back in training and O’Brien could return in time for the Champions Cup

Mike Ford at the RDS last January where his side Bath lost to Leinster in the Champions Cup. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Surprise departure of New Zealander means province must find a new defence coach

Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin is to return home to New Zealand due to personal reasons. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Province will be without key international players for start of season

Tipperary’s Michael Quinlivan: “It’s great to be sitting here and talking about playing in an All-Ireland semi-final.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Tipperary star says team looking forward to their big semi-final bow in Croke Park

Ger Cunningham: “You saw the standard last weekend, they are the top four and we have to make sure that gap doesn’t get any bigger.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Former Cork star says the aim is to close the gap with top four counties

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody: “There is just no limit to what that man can do.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kilkenny manager praised by Ger Loughnane after semi-final win over Waterford

 Galway’s Joe Canning feels the effects of a thunderous hit by Tipperary’s Pádraic Maher during Sunday’s semi-final at Croke Park.  Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

“We don’t fear Kilkenny, we never did,” says inspirational Premier County stalwart

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan praised his team’s fighting spirit. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

‘We were bit slower than we’d like, we have plenty to work on. But we will.’ - Michael Ryan

Munster hurling championship opener against Cork this May was Kennedy’s senior hurling debut for Tipperary. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Talented footballer Séamus Kennedy lines out for hurlers in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final

Waterford’s Noel Connors shakes hands with Walter Walsh: “I think we’ve been a team that has been maybe tarnished with a brush for the Munster final.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Waterford defender believes his side can rise to the required level once again in replay

 Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly was sent off following this challenge on Anthony Thompson of Donegal last weekend – having being booked earlier on. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Referees opting for two yellow cards when top talents targeted via off-the-ball tactics

Ollie Canning is tipping Tipperary to beat his own county Galway on Sunday. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile.

Former Galway favourite has unsettling view for his county on All-Ireland semi-final

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan reacts towards Shane Prendergast of Kilkenny after scoring a point during the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

After Sunday’s draw against Kilkenny, Waterford have a second chance at victory

 Donegal’s Eamon McGee has retired from inter-county football. Photograph:   Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Donegal corner back follows Colm McFadden into retirement

Job done: Aidan O’Shea is congratulated by Mayo manager Aidan O’Shea after the victory over Tyrone. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Versatile talisman inspirational again in the defeat of Ulster kingpins Tyrone

Dublin manager Jim Gavin was unhappy with Diarmuid Connolly’s dismissal for two yellow cards against Donegal at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dublin manager claims opponents are deliberately trying to provoke forward

Semi-final replay will take place in Thurles at 6.45pm next Saturday evening

Neil McGee and Eoghan O’Gara clash in the incident which resulted in the Dublin number 26’s red card. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Donegal attacker Colm McFadden announces his retirement after quarter-final defeat

Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh and Lee Keegan of Mayo clash before the start of the second half. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

‘It seems a shame he is the victim of somebody else enticing him into that kind of arena’

Pete McGrath: “I still think the more they dilute the sudden-death nature of championship the less exciting it becomes” Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Fermanagh boss says round-robin in last eight will rule out Tipperary-style upsets

4GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail and director general Paraic Duffy announcing plans to restructure the football championship at Croke Park. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Croke Park’s plan is to condense fixtures, with provinces hosting most of extra games

GAA President Aogan O’Fearghail and GAA Director General Paraic Duffy at Thursday’s media briefing. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Each separate motion would need two thirds majority, that cannot be adopted until 2018

James McCarthy has been declared fit to play against Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dublin manager makes no reference to seismic defeat to Ulster side in 2014

Dublin manager Jim Gavin at Wednesday morning’s press conference for the upcoming All-Ireland quarter-final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

‘We never put any player under any pressure to get back. It is the medical team’s choice’

 Graham Henry watches on during a Leinster training session at Greystones RFC, Dr Hickey Park. “If you can pass on some of that experience about what helped you get better – it must be a positive, hopefully.” Photograph: Sportsfile

Former All Black coach assesses what the coaches are doing in their development

 Graham Henry at aLeinster Rugby open training session at Greystones RFC, Co. Wicklow. Photograph: Inpho

Former All Blacks coach also favours prohibiting stealing possession on the ground

Tipperary captain Peter Acheson, pictured with manager Liam Kearns after Sunday’s quarter-final victory over Galway: “I’m the third-oldest player and I’m only 26 but the young fellas, they are brave out. They go for it, which suits our style of play.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

‘All the lads believe we can win, says Peter Acheson, ‘that won’t change for the semi-final’

Donegal’s Paddy McBrearty slips by Cork’s Eoin Cadogan during the All-Ireland qualifier at Croke Park on Saturday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Kilcar marksman was on fire against Cork, and when he gathered he pointed

The last 80,000-plus gathering in Croke Park was for the National Football League final between Dublin and Kerry, with Tyrone and Cavan in the Division Two decider, on April 24th

All tickets that went on public sale for Dublin versus Donegal and Tyrone against Mayo are sold

The 2014 All-Ireland semi-final: Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-17 was arguably Jim McGuinness’s greatest moment as a manager

From the 2004 Fermanagh v Armagh quarter-final to 2014’s Tipp v Dublin semi-final

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns with Peter Acheson at the end of the game. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Liam Kearns reflects on his Tipperary team’s famous quarter-final victory over Galway

Kerry Manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice watched his team reach yet another All-Ireland semi-final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Colm Collins react to Sunday’s result and turnout at Croker?

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