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Mary Hannigan: Interminable, tempestuous day for the FAI

FAI began the day with an apology but things only went downhill from there; opportunity knocks for Frawley in the Six Nations

The delegation from the Football Association of Ireland spent three and a half hours being grilled by members of the Public Accounts Committee in Leinster House on Thursday morning, but it probably felt considerably longer than that. Interminable, maybe. “A tempestuous session,” as Gavin Cummiskey describes it, while Malachy Clerkin noted that the FAI began the day with an apology. “Thing is, if you start with an apology, you better make sure the only way is up from there. But of course, this is the FAI we’re talking about. And reader, this is going to shock you now – the only way was not up.” Read on for the gory details. The bulk of the heat was directed at FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill who was probably relieved when he was asked about a proposed solidarity match between Palestine and a League of Ireland team, at least it was a breather from the grilling. He possibly regrets not heading for Florence where the women’s senior team is taking on Italy in a friendly this afternoon.

In rugby, opportunity knocks for Ciarán Frawley who will become the fourth Irish player to make his first championship start in this year’s Six Nations when Ireland host Wales tomorrow afternoon. Gerry Thornley previews the game, while John O’Sullivan brings news from Warren Gatland’s pre-match press conference: there were no “salty, sharp-tongued observationsn - he was instead generous in his praise of Andy Farrell’s team. Beware!” John also looks ahead to this evening’s Under-20 Six Nations game between Ireland and Wales at Musgrave Park.

In Gaelic games, Seán Moran reflects on Jarlath Burns’ journey towards becoming the 41st president of the GAA, while Johnny Watterson looks at the impact of state funding in sport and its facilities in light of this week’s announcement that the Irish Government will contribute €50 million towards the redevelopment of Casement Park.

Sonia O’Sullivan, meanwhile, rues the number of Irish athletes who skipped last weekend’s National Indoor Championships in Abbotstown. “How can we expect to grow the sport from a grassroots level if our star athletes are rarely seen at home,” she asks. She’s also disappointed by the size of the team (10) that Ireland will be sending to next month’s World Indoor Championships in Glasgow.


Speaking of disappointment: with just 18 days away from the start of the biggest meeting of the year, the racing authorities in England are fretting over ticket sales for the Cheltenham Festival. They are, writes Brian O’Connor, “to use a commercial buzzkill of a word, lagging. The festival goose isn’t killed, but its golden eggs don’t seem so enticing anymore.”

TV Watch: The Republic of Ireland’s women are away to Italy today in a friendly (RTÉ News Now, 5.15pm), while the Irish under-20 side take on Wales in the Six Nations this evening (RTÉ 2, 7.15pm). And later, second meets first in the Championship, Leeds at home to Leicester City (Sky Sports Football, 8pm).

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