Rashford on the double for United; Gordon D’Arcy on the importance of the European break

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

Marcus Rashford’s excellent form continues, the Manchester United forward came on to score twice as his team progressed to the League Cup semi-finals last night. Rashford was on target for the sixth successive match in all competitions as United beat third-tier Charlton Athletic 3-0. Newcastle are into their first League Cup semi-final for 47 years after beating Leicester 2-0 at St James’ Park. Pep Guardiola says he is considering “ridiculous” plans for Manchester City’s derby at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.

The future and format of the O’Byrne Cup preseason football competition are being called into question after Louth and Kildarew withdrew from this evening’s concluding fixtures of the round-robin stage. Both teams are either unable or unwilling to field a team due to player commitments elsewhere, or progression already being assured. Still going ahead, Laois will host Carlow at Stradbally, Meath play Longford at Ashbourne, and Dublin host Offaly at Parnell Park (all 8pm). There are also three McKenna Cup matches throwing in at 7.30pm.

In his column this morning, Gordon D’Arcy explains how the European break may hold the key for players on the fringe of Andy Farrell’s thinking. The former Leinster centre recalls his own experience of coming from left field in Irish selection terms: “Suddenly from the periphery of the Ireland squad I started in the 13 jersey against France in Paris and ended up as player of the tournament in the 2004 Six Nations. I’m not trying to be boastful and mention it just to illustrate the serendipitous change of personal circumstances.”

Meanwhile, Nathan Johns speaks to Ross Adair about his roundabout jersey from Ulster Rugby to Irish cricket. Adair battled a lack of opportunities at home, degenerative hips and a career change to make it to international sport: “Describing Ross Adair merely as a rugby lad who can give a cricket ball a thump does him a disservice. That said, the description is not completely wide of the mark.”