Ireland get their Nations League campaign under way tomorrow against Armenia in Yerevan and a qualifier from Euro 2012 is still on Armenia’s mind, a dodgy handball against Ireland that cost their greatest team the chance of promotion, James McDermott writes an interesting potted history of Armenian football. Jason Knight should play an important role over the four Nations League matches, the midfielder was recently relegated with Derby County to League One, but he is keeping the dream alive of playing in the Premier League. “Whenever I step out there I can mix it with anyone. If that offer comes in, it’s something you have always dreamt of, playing in the Premier League, at the highest level,” the 21-year-old says. Ireland will play Ukraine twice in the next few weeks and the war-torn nation reached the World Cup playoff final against Wales after beating Scotland 3-1 at Hampden Park, a victory that nobody could begrudge them.
Dave Hannigan writes in today’s subscriber only piece the sporting response to school shootings in America is laudable but useless as an entrenched demographic in America refuses to confront the weird culture that idolises and idealises weaponry. “Protests, no matter how eloquent or how beloved the sporting figure involved, will have as much impact as people putting the Ukrainian flag in online avatars will affect Vladimir Putin’s plans,” writes Hannigan. In her column today, Sonia O’Sullivan asks what is it that makes a good coach. She writes: “The coach’s role is to keep things positive, keep the energy up and sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the physical conditioning with mental stimulation to give a boost of confidence.” Meanwhile, Joanne O’Riordan writes about multi-sport talent Mary Waldron gearing up for South Africa. Ireland’s wicketkeeper had stellar football career but is now a full-time cricket professional.
Mayo play Monaghan in the Gaelic football qualifiers at the weekend and Ciarán Murphy writes it’s time for Mayo to round up the posse for one last ride. As Dublin and Kerry loom large once again, he writes Horan’s grizzled heroes can inject some badly-needed romance into the football championship. Meanwhile, Cork minors shred the formbook with an 11-point win over Kerry in Munster final last night. Kerry senior hurlers, however, have a real opportunity as victory over Antrim in the McDonagh Cup would clinch a high-profile Munster playoff against Tipperary.
Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire will play in the US Women’s Open at Southern Pines today, with a record money payout for women’s golf - €9.25m (€1.7m to the winner). World number one Jin Young Ko is favourite on a course where her short game and putting should be key assets. Men’s golf is at Memorial on the PGA Tour this week but all attention is on the announcement of the field for the first of Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed LIV Tour events, with Dustin Johnson taking the surprise decision to participate. There was no temptation for Rory McIlroy to follow the lure of Saudi money, which attracted the likes of his old friend Graeme McDowell, McIlroy said he understood the motivation of those players. “I have some very close friends that are playing in (the LIV) event in London (next week) and I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in their way, for them to do what they feel is right for themselves. It’s not something I would do personally.