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GAA admits need to treat referees better; McIlroy recovers from nightmare start

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

The GAA has accepted that their treatment of referees has to improve. After a damning Ulster University report on the level of physical and verbal abuse suffered by GAA officials compared to those in other sports, Donal Smyth, Croke Park’s national match officials manager, reacted to the new findings. “A key finding for me was that the majority of the verbal abuse came from team officials [85 per cent of respondents reported such incidents]. So how do we deal with that and the clear difference between what’s acceptable and what isn’t?” Croke Park was also busy yesterday when it ratified Galway star Shane Walsh’s club move to Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin.

Ireland have a massive World Cup qualifier next Thursday at a sold old Tallaght Stadium against Finland. The permutations are simple, Sweden have already qualified as Group A winners, while Ireland (second on 11 points) and Finland (third on 10 points) are the only two teams in the group that have any chance of claiming the playoff berth, with both having two games remaining. Lisa Fallon previews the seismic tie, noting that Finland’s recent change of manager makes any tactical preparation that much more unpredictable. In the men’s game, Thursday’s Champions League group draw threw up some interesting combinations, none the more so than Rangers squaring off against Liverpool, Celtic against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the same group as Barcelona.

At the PGA Tour Championship, Rory McIlroy endured a nightmare start to his opening round on Thursday night but recovered from a position of four-over through his first four holes to card an initial 67. He went at seven-under through the last 14, including a pair of eagles. Scottie Scheffler remains the man to catch at the top of the FedEx standings.

Greg McWilliams has been forced into a number of changes for the second Test against Japan on Saturday. Dorothy Wall, Sam Monaghan, Christy Haney and Nicole Cronin have all been ruled out, meaning Hannah O’Connor, who started last week’s first Test at number eight moves into the secondrow to partner captain, Nicola Fryday, while Grace Moore will start in the number eight jersey for the first time. Netherlands born Jo Brown, who has previously been capped by England, starts in the backrow instead of Wall.