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Putter costs McIlroy as birdie efforts just don’t drop; Gearóid Hegarty is Robocop crossed with Harry Potter

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

It’s hard to fault Rory McIlroy after he missed out on Open glory by two strokes. The Holywood man played flawless golf, carding a two-under round that featured no dropped shots and two birdies, but it wasn’t enough as Cameron Smith stormed up the leaderboard with a closing 64 to recover from a difficult day on Saturday. Ultimately, the difference for McIlroy was the fact that a number of birdie chances – from six feet on the third, from 15 feet on the sixth and eight feet on the ninth – all missed the cup. The putter would remain cold on the homeward run, where a birdie on the 10th – two putting from 126 feet after driving the green on the Par 4 – would be his only reward for finding all 18 greens in regulation. In terms of the rest of the Irish, Shane Lowry has spoken of his frustration at a tied-21st finish. He is already counting down the days until the next major at Augusta in April 2023.

Limerick have joined a select group of counties to win three All-Ireland hurling crowns in a row. It was a pulsating affair with Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday, but despite the Walter Walsh-led comeback from the Cats Limerick’s bench had enough to pull away relatively comfortably in the end. Seán Moran’s match report has all you need to know if you missed the game. Nicky English provides analysis here - he says it was one of the best All-Ireland finals he’s seen. Detailed player ratings on both sides can also be found, while Ian O’Riordan picks out the five moments that defined the contest. John Kiely’s reaction as winning manager was understandably one of delight, while a focus on Gearóid Hegarty reveals a scintillating performance that started with a crucial goal and finished with a fantastic point from range that killed Kilkenny off - he’s Robocop crossed with Harry Potter, according to Malachy Clerkin. Finally, Keith Duggan asks the question that’s on many people’s lips: who can stop Limerick from going to four titles in a row?

Given the excitement of the golf and the hurling on Sunday, it’s easy to forget Ireland’s historic series victory over the All Blacks that took place on Saturday. For the first time since 2019, Ireland are now atop the world rankings but unlike then, Andy Farrell’s side has truly earned the honour to the point where it does not feel uneasy, writes Gerry Thornley. John O’Sullivan has a player watch piece on Tadhg Beirne who was simply inspirational with a series of turnovers in the late second half defensive effort. There’s also the view from the New Zealand press who lurch from praising Ireland to calling from Ian Foster’s head, while our man in Wellington Thornley offers some insight into Irish celebrations in the Kiwi city on Saturday night: ‘It had to be done after a first ever win over the All Blacks in New Zealand, it sure as hell had to be done after Ireland joined an elite group to win a test series on the most revered rugby soil of them all. So yes, it was an almighty night in Wellington after beating the almighty All Blacks 2-1.”

Ireland women returned to cricket action on Sunday with a full strength outfit - bar the injured Amy Hunter - for the first time this season but still were put to the sword by world champions Australia. It was a result that was expected given plenty of players were returning to the international fold for the first time in quite some time, but the defeat was perhaps heavier than most anticipated. In cycling, Jonas Vingegaard crashed on the 15th stage of the Tour de France but still managed to retain the yellow jersey as Jasper Philipsen took the stage win. In racing, the expected 40 degree temperatures in the UK have led to some meets there being cancelled, meaning Ballinrobe’s Monday evening fixture will be the focus of the racing attention.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist