Considering what his players have achieved under his guidance over the past year, there wasn’t a great deal of surprise on Tuesday when Andy Farrell remained loyal to those who propelled Ireland to unprecedented success. “It’s hardly blind faith as the results validate his choices,” writes John O’Sullivan.
John goes through the 42-man squad, profiling the four uncapped inclusions – Calvin Nash, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley and Tom Stewart – while Gordon D’Arcy offers some sympathy to the likes of Jean Kleyn, John Hodnett and Robert Baloucoune who failed to make the cut. “The unequivocal message from Farrell, for now at least, is one of loyalty,” he says.
Gordon also reflects on a season that didn’t begin so promisingly for Munster, but ended on a high, leaving the other provinces looking on in envy. He worries about where Leinster will go from here, his chief concern being that they haven’t made any signings. “Can the obvious holes in a couple of positions be filled by the current squad and the academy? The answer for me is no.”
If Leinster underachieved this season, that’s nothing compared to what Cork’s footballers have done over the past “10 or 12 years”, Darragh Ó Sé suggests. And that, he promises, isn’t him “having another dig, with my Kerry hat on”.
“They’ve got some of the best training facilities in the country, some of the best coaches, they have the population and players, so there’s no discernible reason they should be this poor,” he says. They’ve beaten Kerry just once in their last 10 meetings, so “if there’s any bit of fight in this Cork team, any bit of pride” they’ll put it up to their beloved neighbours at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday.
And the championship, “the most open in 25 years”, is there for the taking, writes Seán Moran, with the top teams having “mostly struggled to string together successive displays of quality football”. Who will find “the decisive bounce”?
David Gough will be on duty at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but when Gordon Manning spoke with the Meath referee his thoughts were focused on the GAA’s Go Games policy, which states that all matches up to and including under-12 should be non-competitive.
It’s an approach he wholeheartedly supports because, ultimately, “sport is supposed to be fun”. Go Games “takes all the stress off the children”, he says, allowing them “to play and enjoy their activity for what it is”.
Sevilla have won the Europa League six times, twice as many as the next clubs in the roll of honour. Tonight they’ll attempt to make it seven when they take on Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the final in Budapest (Virgin Media Two and BT Sport 1, kick-off 8.0). And TG4 has live coverage of the Leinster minor football final between Dublin and Kildare (throw-in 7.30).