Joey Carbery’s omission a career blow; GAA clubs forced to adapt to modern challenges

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

Joey Carbery is facing something of a crossroads after his omission from the Irish squad for the Six Nations, writes Gerry Thornley, which sees a remarkable continuity in squad selection as Leinster’s rising tide lifts their contingent to 20 players. Never has he been left out of an Irish squad when fit since making his composed debut in the historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago in November 2016, and at 27 years old at the peak of his career. In light of Crowley’s confident performances with Munster, even if mostly in tandem with Carbery at 12, and Byrne’s continuing assuredness with Leinster – he has played in all but one of their 15 wins this season, starting 11 of them – this duo have now usurped Carbery.

One Munster player that did make the cut though was Keith Earls, who is considered more than a try scorer for Ireland and his selection is testament to a player who has never been less than ready and who, with 98 Irish caps and a 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, brings a wealth of experience into the set-up. For Munster, Jean Kleyn is content to put team effort before personal glory and is well aware they face a tough physical test in their pool finale against Toulouse. Jack O’Donoghue will be banned for that one, suspended for three weeks after his red card against Northampton. Finally, in rugby, Johnny Watterson writes in his column 20 years on, the EPCR no longer fears a European final in Dublin between two French teams. Leinster and Munster were beaten in 2003 leaving incredulous ERC with empty Lansdowne Road to fill with Toulouse and Perpignan. For more rugby news, sign up to The Irish Times’ new “Counter Ruck” email digest for the view from the press box with Gerry Thornley.

Both rural and urban GAA clubs face increasing challenges as demographics in Ireland change. A new series of articles in The Irish Times explore the issues clubs face and what they are doing to adapt. Today, we see the examples of Valentia Young Islanders in Co Kerry, Kiltane in Co Mayo, Na Rossa in Co Donegal, Walsh Island in Co Offaly, Cooley Kickhams in Co Louth. Elsewhere it was mixed news for GAA in the TV ratings battle. In the uncharted territory of earlier finals with the new season, Limerick’s All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny attracted a television audience of 786,000 for the first hurling All-Ireland to be played in July and the first of any sort for more than century, an increase on the previous year.

In soccer, the FAI is still seeking World Cup warm-up opposition for Vera Pauw’s Ireland, where April and July dates remain unfilled. They have secured World Cup warm-up matches against China and Germany in Algeciras, Spain next month comes as mere appetisers before a feast for Irish football in 2023. In the Premier League, Manchester City came from two goals down to power past Tottenham as Pep Guardiola’s side narrowed the gap in the title race to five points with Arsenal playing Man United on Sunday.