Combative Pat Hickey departs Olympic stage; Alexis Mac Allister’s Irish link

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

After a two-day break, the World Cup is back and it’s the quarter-finals to come – Croatia against Brazil and Netherlands against Argentina. Gavin Cummiskey writes about the build-up to tonight’s game and the tenuous Irish link to the Argentinian team through Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister, the 23-year-old Irish-looking son of Carlos Mac Allister, a former Boca Juniors left back. The great, great grandfather of Mac Allister junior left Donabate for South America in 1868. We know this because Keith Duggan of The Irish Times interviewed Dickie Mac Allister, a cousin of the future Argentina star during an GAA All Star trip to Hurlingham, Buenos Aires in 2002.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s manager Lionel Scaloni is guarded on Angel Di Maria’s fitness for Dutch clash. In the last two World Cup meetings between Argentina and the Netherlands neither side was able to score a goal in normal or extra time, so expect this one to be tight. In the other semi-final, Brazil are wary of “Croatian resilience” in their toughest hurdle yet. Manager Zlatko Dalic’s savvy and seasoned Croatian core will offer Brazil’s flair players a different test.

Johnny Watterson writes about the fearless and combative Pat Hickey, who departed the Olympic stage this week. An OCI president for 28 years, what made Hickey a constant thorn in the side of the establishment was his brazenness and, until Rio, his uncanny ability to usually emerge on top, whether his spat was with a minister, and there were several, or newspapers with which he had a love/hate relationship.

In GAA, the Leinster and Munster hurling finals are both set for June 11th as the Championship fixtures have been announced. The 2023 campaign will get under way on April 8th with three football games involving New York v Leitrim and London v Sligo, and an Ulster preliminary round tie between Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh and Andy McEntee’s Antrim. In the league, Dessie Farrell’s Dublin footballers will play all of their 2023 home Allianz League games at Croke Park, despite having been relegated to Division Two for the campaign. Dublin will also have a trip to Páirc Tailteann in March to play a first league game against Meath in Navan for 35 years. Meanwhile, Malachy O’Rourke is focused on club glory as Glen eye Ulster title. The former Fermanagh and Monaghan has been linked with every county job going but has his mind on Sunday’s final against Kilcoo this Sunday.


In rugby, Owen Doyle writes in his column that baffling red card reversals leave fans wondering when will powers that be wake up? Decisions on Cian Healy and Antoine Dupont cards cause even more confusion on what constitutes foul play. “Hopefully, they do not require an injury of catastrophic proportions before the alarm bell rings loud. Because, by then, it will be too late,” he writes. Elsewhere, Tadhg Beirne is at one with Munster’s heart and soul ahead of European campaign. The secondrow has been outstanding for Ireland and his driving play and talent can energise Munster against Toulouse on Sunday in the Champions Cup.