So the day has finally arrived. A short while ago Darren Clarke hit the first shot at a British Open Championship on the island of Ireland for 68 years. Golf’s oldest tournament is officially underway and the world’s best players are ready to do battle in Portrush. You can follow all of the action throughout the day on our liveblog with Rory McIlroy getting underway shortly after 10am while Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry – who is hoping he can sneak a little under the radar this week and “pop up on Sunday afternoon” – both take to the first tee before 8am. From the north Antrim coast Philip Reid writes that the showery weather expected over the next few days will play a big part in determining who the winner is with a host of players all fancying their chances. Meanwhile, to get to know the course a bit better, John O’Sullivan spoke to veteran Portrush caddy Paul Roddich who has been carrying bags around the old links for 52 years. He says that the course will present a tough challenge for the world’s best but one that is also quite fair. Rory McIlroy said similar in his press conference yesterday as he prepares for one of the biggest weeks of his life with the spotlight firmly on him as he plays on front of his home crowd. If you want to get to know the course a bit better yourself you can read our hole-by-hole guide while our all you need to know guide will fill you in on just about everything.
On to soccer and it was a night to remember in Riga last night for Dundalk as they finally came through a tense clash with their Latvian hosts to book a place in the second qualifying round of the Champions League and, in doing so, net around €1 million for the club. After 180 minutes as well as extra time without a goal it left the teams needing to be separated on penalties with goalkeeper Gary Rogers proving the hero for the Irish champions. They now face Qarabag of Azerbaijan in the next round. This evening Shamrock Rovers will look to make the most of the two away goals they scored in Norway next week when they meet SK Brann in the Europa League qualifiers while St Pat’s and Cork City both need fast starts in their second leg ties against IFK Norrkoping and Progres Niederkorn respectively. Meanwhile, FAI controversy hit the headlines again yesterday as Donal Conway looks set to defy wishes to step aside as FAI president despite calls from both Sport Ireland and Minister Shane Ross to do so.
Moving on to GAA and Eamon Donoghue writes in his statistics column this morning that Brian Hurley has been crucial to Cork’s new philosophy of scoring as many points as they can. Against Dublin last weekend Hurley never touched the ball further than 35 metres from goal. So far this summer he has received possession outside of the opposition’s 45 only twice. Meanwhile, Mark Durcan writes that the GAA must tread warily if it comes to a divisive border poll. Organisationally and culturally, the country’s largest sporting body remains all-island in purpose and with a mission – it has more than one, of course – to strengthen a 32-county “national identity”, he writes.