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D’Arcy on Ireland’s lack of impactful depth; Kerry need to break Dublin hoodoo

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

Selection and depth has long been a topic of debate in Irish rugby circles, with Ireland increasingly getting a lack of impact from those not in the first choice group of players. On that topic, Gordon D’Arcy writes this morning that Ireland’s depth continues to be an issue due to a lack of wiggle room in the squads named: “It begs the question from an Irish perspective as to whether there is enough quality outside of the ‘first choice’ players in each position to realistically compete with larger nations? The short answer is that there is clearly a lack of strength in depth capable of playing in the highest echelons of Test rugby.” From the camp in New Zealand, Robbie Henshaw has tasked himself with being one of the Ireland leaders to drag Ireland out of their run of back-to-back defeats on tour while Mike Catt has been speaking about the influence of Johnny Sexton at training.

Kerry have a Dublin hoodoo. Ever since 2011, the Kingdom has bore the psychological scars of failing to beat their counterparts in the capital. Beating them this weekend is arguably more important to the county than winning the All-Ireland, according to Darragh O Sé in his column. “This is way bigger than the hold Tyrone had over our team back in the 2000s. It’s gone on for longer and the Dubs have won more All-Irelands. The job for this current Kerry team is to break the spell that has lasted since 2011. Another defeat will mean more psychological pressure for the next Kerry team that tries to do it.” Elsewhere, Seán Moran is writing about the well-known charge sheet against the provincial championships: a lack of competitiveness, mind-numbingly repetitive fixtures, the demoralising of less successful counties and discrepancy of scheduling. Yet this year all four All-Ireland finalists across both men’s codes are provincial champions.

Champions League football returned to Irish shores last night as Shamrock Rovers comfortably won the first leg of their early round qualifier against Maltese side Hibernians 3-0. Rory Gaffney avoided what seemed a certain red card for kicking an opponent in the face before he settled Rovers’ second half nerves, starting and finishing a delicious third goal which should secure safe passage to the next round of Europe’s elite competition for the first time in 10 years. The second leg is to be played next Tuesday in Malta.

Few stories at Wimbledon this year will better that of Tatjana Maria, a German mother of two who is ranked outside of the world’s top 100 players but qualified for the semi-finals yesterday after a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over her compatriot Jule Niemeier. Tournament favourite Ons Jabeur awaits in the last four. On the men’s side of the draw, Novak Djokovic overcame a scare to beat Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 2-6, 2-6 to set up a semi-final date with Britain’s Cameron Norrie. In golf, after missing this year’s iteration at Mount Juliet, Rory McIlroy has committed to playing at next year’s Irish Open at the K Club.