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Mary Hannigan: Winning and having fun are not mutually exclusive

Naas take on Kilmacud Crokes; Dave Hannigan has nostalgia trip; Denise O’Sullivan looks back on memorable year


“Nostalgia is the opium of the middle-aged male,” writes Dave Hannigan as he reflects on a recent trip home to Cork when he took his young sons to watch the Irish under-21 footballers take on Italy at Turner’s Cross. While they focused on the game, he “spent half the time drifting off on flights of fancy, trying to remember days and games of old”. More than three decades after he left his home city, this was “a day trip to the life I might have led”. For the long-term emigrant, Dave concludes, “a visit home can turn you into a tourist in your own past”.

Ciarán Murphy is feeling a bit nostalgic too, about the days when playing Gaelic games was fun, his thoughts on the matter prompted by that widely circulated list of rules issued by a club manager, “the tone extraordinarily dictatorial”. No drink, no unapproved holidays, no golf, and so on. “To a certain type of coach or manager ... if you’re enjoying it, it’s obviously because you’re not trying hard enough,” writes Ciaran, who insists that “winning and having fun are not mutually exclusive”.

Naas have had no fun at all when they’ve come up against Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster football championship the last two years, the Dublin champions coming out on top both times. They’ll have another go on Sunday when the teams meet in the final, Gordon Manning talking to Crokes captain Shane Cunningham ahead of the game.

As a Kildare man, you’d assume Diarmuid Kilgallen will be rooting for Naas, but his focus is purely on Connacht’s URC tussle with Leinster on Saturday. Gerry Thornley talks to the 23-year-old who has been making big strides for Connacht this season, but insists that he’s not yet “the finished article”.

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Johnny Watterson, meanwhile, previews Michael Conlan’s fight against Jordan Gill in Belfast on Saturday, there being no end of pressure on the 31-year-old. “Defeat and his professional career probably won’t survive.”

Johnny also reports on the confusion surrounding the Irish team’s participation in the World Junior Boxing Championships in Armenia when, initially, they were instructed that they would have to withdraw if they were pitted against a Russian or Belarusian. But there now appears to have been an about-turn on that ruling.

In soccer, we hear from Denise O’Sullivan who looks back on a rollercoaster of a year, one that featured the highest of highs, with a few deep dips thrown in. And in golf, Philip Reid brings news of Luke Donald’s reappointment as Ryder Cup captain following that stratospheric high in Rome in September, when he led Europe to victory over the United States.

TV Watch: The Europa League offers the bulk of your football viewing today, AEK Athens v Brighton (Virgin Media Two and TNT Sports 2) and Backa Topola v West Ham (TNT Sports 1) kicking off at 5.45pm, with Liverpool in action at 8pm against LASK (Virgin Media Two and TNT Sports 1). And from 6.30pm, you can see Tiger Woods’ latest comeback at the Hero World Challenge on Sky Sports Golf.