France thumped the Netherlands 4-0 on Friday night. The Netherlands are ranked six in the world, 42 places higher than the Republic of Ireland. “The reflex response,” writes Ken Early, “might be to curl into a ball and rock gently back and forth, crying ‘if they can do that to Holland, what will they do to us?’”
We’ll find out tonight, the Republic opening their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign against the French in Dublin. Gavin Cummiskey sets the scene for the game having listened to the pre-match thoughts of managers Stephen Kenny and Didier Deschamps, as well as a fella by the name of Kylian Mbappé.
Malachy Clerkin, meanwhile, is still wiping his eyes after spotting Stephen Cluxton warm up in Croke Park on Sunday, his first appearance in a Dublin shirt since the 2020 All Ireland final. Cluxton didn’t feature in the league game against Louth, but as Dublin manager Dessie Farrell suggested after, it’s unlikely he’s returned to sit on the bench.
Malachy wraps up the final round of National League games and we have reports from around the country, including Denis Walsh’s account of a rowdy hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Cork.
In his Tipping Point column, Denis writes about how concussion is a significant but under-reported problem in women’s sport, with evidence suggesting that female athletes suffer more concussions than their male counterparts in similar sports.
In rugby, Daire Walsh reports on Ireland’s demoralising start to the women’s Six Nations on Saturday, when they lost 31-5 to Wales in Cardiff, and there’s news too of contrasting United Rugby Championship experiences for Munster and Ulster over the weekend.
Telly choice: RTÉ2 and Premier Sports 1 bring us the Republic of Ireland v France (kick-off 7.45). You might want to watch it from behind a cushion.
Keep an eye on: Kylian Mbappé. He only needs a hat-trick tonight to draw level with Michel Platini’s goal tally for France. It could be a long 90 minutes.