Lionel Messi still mesmerises; the pressure of being David Clifford

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

It wasn’t a classic Lionel Messi night, the penalty miss gave way to that, but the Argentinian’s ability to make things happen from the least promising of positions still mesmerises, writes Ken Early, as Argentina progressed to the last 16 of the World Cup. “Messi still wants to create the shape of the attacks. He can’t do as much as he used to, he can’t run past defenders any more (although he can shuffle past them by putting them off-balance), but he is still taking responsibility, and everything he does retains the fascination of unpredictability,” he writes. After Argentina beat Poland, Mexico exited the tournament on goal difference after a late fight for World Cup survival against Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, a Mat Leckie strike helped Australia stun Denmark to reach World Cup last 16. The Socceroos are into the knock-out stages for just the second time and first since 2006. Manager Graham Arnold hailed Australia after team “united the country” with World Cup run. He believes keeping his players’ emotions in check has been key to their success. Up next is Argentina on Saturday night. In the World Cup TV View, Denis Walsh writes Duffer’s dressed for success – with a whiff of Eau de Keano. The Shelbourne manager showed his panache in the pundits’ couch as Australia delivered a big upset against Denmark.

What we are witnessing with David Clifford is a once in a generation reaction to a phenomenal talent, writes Ciarán Murphy in his weekly column. He now exists in that rarefied air of sportspeople that have a specific pressure only they have to bear. “Kerry and Fossa now find themselves in a similar scenario to Santos in the 1960s and 70s, which is to say – we have Pelé, now how do we ensure as many people as possible see him in the flesh? It was thinking like this that brought Pelé all the way to Dalymount Park in 1972.” Meanwhile, Shane Horan is still keeping things local at Kilmacud Crokes. When Shane Horan was six years old his parents brought him down to join the nursery football team at their local GAA club Kilmacud Crokes. He hasn’t missed a season since.

Building back trust in Kenyan distance running will be a long journey, writes Sonia O’Sullivan in today’s subscriber only column. The World Athletics Council stops short of an outright ban for Kenyan athletes, believing improved funding for testing is best solution. “Kenya finished third on the athletics medal table at the Tokyo Olympics last year, and second at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, this past summer. They may have been given another chance, although Coe is right about one thing: building back trust will be a long journey,” she writes. Also in doping-related news, Sport Ireland point to deterrent factor as they report single positive doping test from 2021. A total of 1,354 tests carried were carried out across 28 different sports at a cost of just over €1.8m.


Kate O’Connor is right there where it counts in her seven events as her Commonwealth silver medal in the heptathlon came 50 years after Mary Peters won Olympic gold. Next summer’s World Championships in Budapest offer the chance of another first given there’s never been an Irish representative in the heptathlon before. Which is the motivation through much of that typical winter training.