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Niall Scannell’s surprise call-up; Lowry ready for Mount Juliet challenge

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Injuries are mounting for Ireland head coach Andy Farrell early in their tour of New Zealand but opportunity has come knocking for Niall Scannell, travelling there as a late replacement. A surprise for Scannell, who was on holidays in Portugal when he heard the news. Walking back into his brothers and wife “to tell them I was going to have to leave straight away because I was going to New Zealand was a great buzz,” Scannell said.

Ireland need a boost after 32-17 defeat to the Maori All Blacks on a chastening night, where only Jordan Larmour and Gavin Coombes rated higher than a seven in the player ratings. It was also a disappointment for Ireland’s under-20s as their revival was not enough to rescue victory against South Africa, going down 33-24.

The Irish Open begins today at Mount Juliet and Shane Lowry is the headline act in Kilkenny. The field — admittedly — isn’t as strong as perhaps it deserves, with only five of the world’s top-50 teeing off, as Shane Lowry, at 24th in the world the best ranked player in the field, conceded. Other players from inside the world’s top-50 include Séamus Power — who is eager to impress on home soil — Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters and defending champion Lucas Herbert, while Pádraig Harrington has touched back home as the US Seniors Open champion to add his spice to the mix.

At Wimbledon, home favourite Emma Raducanu’s defeat sinks hopes but few are surprised as the US Open winner has struggled with injuries and dealing with her sudden success. The English player lost in straight sets to Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-3 in the second round. Big-hitting American John Isner also ended Andy Murray’s Wimbledon hopes in second round, winning 6-4 7-6(4) 6-7(3) 6-4 with a barrage of booming serves and aces.

It was a more polished Novak Djokovic as he cut and diced into the third round as after a stumble in the first round the defending champion played an almost flawless match to win 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. Also in tennis, Joanne O’Riordan writes that a development at the recent Queen’s tournament in London, ActionAudio, is a major advance for fans with a visual impairment. It makes tennis viewing accessible for the blind and visually impaired through a series of bleeps and bloops alongside commentary.

In today’s subscriber only piece, Ciarán Murphy writes that penalties are a test of skill when the pressure is most intense, not the lottery that is often suggested, and ball-striking is absolutely a key skill of the game where the credit to Galway who did it better than Armagh. Murphy writes: “Any intercounty forward worth their salt has probably taken dozens of penalties for their clubs over their career. You might say that hardly equates to what the Galway and Armagh players had to go through on Sunday, but that’s hardly the point”. Galway manager Pádraic Joyce “may not like the idea of penalties, but he had his squad practising them since December. This idea wasn’t plucked from thin air.”

Meanwhile, ahead of Clare’s All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny on Saturday, Wexford coach Niall Corcoran says Peter Duggan’s return gives Clare a valuable extra option. “They’ve found a really good style where they can play it short and play it long. Again, that’s where Peter Duggan in there gives them something extra,” Corcoran says.