Vitalia Diatchenko is a Russian professional tennis player. In previous years, she has had a relationship with the powers that be at Elm Park tennis club in Dublin and has used their facilities to train in preparation for the grass court season in the UK. This year is no different and plans were made for the 31 year-old to train once again in Dublin. However, once Russians and Belarusians were banned from Wimbledon and the rest of the grass campaign in the UK, Elm Park said that Diatchenko was not welcome to use their courts. Johnny Watterson this morning explains the whole affair before stating his belief that to stop a player from even training, let alone compete in a tournament, is nonsensical.
“They’re coming into the game in the right frame of mind — annoyed, cranky, looking to settle the score from the last day. That’s where you want to be. Also, people forget they’re going for three-in-a-row in Leinster. They’re nobody’s fools.” From painted grass on the pitch to a mutual level of respect, Joe Canning has plenty of stories to tell about his experience of the Galway vs Kilkenny rivalry. Ahead of the Leinster final between the two on Saturday, Canning’s column both previews the clash based on this season’s form while also looking back at his experience of playing against Brian Cody’s cats. Down in Munster, Limerick and Clare are set to meet in the Munster hurling final for the first time in 27 years. Seán Moran previews that clash for us.
Republic of Ireland international Enda Stevens spoke candidly this week about his experience of the pitch invasion by Nottingham Forest supporters at the end of their Championship playoff clash with Sheffield United. Stevens witnessed the brutal attack on United’s Billy Sharp. This is part of a wider trend; there was hardly a playoff game that didn’t have a pitch invasion as the 2021-22 season came to its conclusion and they also occurred as the Premier League reached its crazy finish. Other countries put up massive barriers around the pitch to stop fans from running on. Lisa Fallon explains how such a situation would be undesirable in this part of the world, but given how the level of trust in fans to behave may well be deteriorating, one has to wonder how long it is before the barriers go up. In terms of positive soccer news, Stephen Kenny received a boost when he learned that Josh Cullen’s ban that was supposed to rule him out of Ireland’s Armenia clash has been overturned.
Tonight sees the return to URC action as Ulster welcome Munster to Belfast in an all-Irish quarter-final affair. Apart from a place in the semi-finals being at stake, as John O’Sullivan explains, this interpro offers a bespoke benchmarking environment when it comes to players jostling for places and position in the Ireland squad. Friday night’s game is the latest iteration of the process and an important one as Ireland head coach Andy Farrell weighs his options in advance of confirming a 42-man squad for the five-match tour to New Zealand the week after next. Speaking of New Zealand, Arlene Kelly is on the cusp of debuting for Ireland today just under a month after landing in the country from Auckland. The Kiwi-born bowling all-rounder, who has strong family ties to Cavan, was not supposed to be in the international frame this quickly, but an Ireland squad besotted with injuries and state exam commitments - as maddening as it may seem for elite sport - has called on Kelly in their time of need. She explains her journey to the Ireland squad here.