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Mary Hannigan: Are real fans attending games at the Aviva?

Did Wales’ defence expose Ireland’s attack somewhat? Was Piardi right to award a penalty try? Eileen Gleeson on Ireland vs Wales

Are tickets for the Irish rugby team’s home games ending up in the hands of real fans? Gerry Thornley has his doubts after another flat atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, with many in attendance appearing to regard the occasion as “an open-air party/dining/drinking” opportunity. “This is the best Irish team ever,” he writes, and it “deserves better”. “How many of the 50,000 or so Irish fans who were in the Stade de France for the South Africa, Scotland and New Zealand games were able to procure tickets for this year’s Six Nations games? Very few, one would venture.” As for the 50-plus non-occupied seats in the Lower East and Havelock Square ends: “What the hell is going on there?” A shoulder injury has reduced Garry Ringrose to the role of spectator thus far in this campaign, but he’s been so impressed by his comrades’ performances, it’s unlikely he’s left any of the games early, as some of the crowd did on Saturday. He’s “hopeful” about being fit in time for the visit to Twickenham, but is balancing a desire to play again with making sure he doesn’t worsen his injury. Nathan Johns analyses Wales’ defensive display on Saturday and concludes that it won’t prove to be a blueprint for England or Scotland when they come up against the Grand Slam-seekers. Daire Walsh hears from Leinster assistant coach Andrew Goodman, who was highly impressed by how Ciaran Frawley performed in the victory, while Owen Doyle analyses the refereeing at the weekend, looking at some of the big decisions - not least Andrea Piardi’s awarding of a penalty try to Wales.

In football, Eileen Gleeson’s Republic of Ireland side take on Wales in a friendly in Tallaght this evening in what will be their final warm-up game before the start of their European Championship qualifying campaign in April. And after yet another impressive outing for Caoimhín Kelleher, this time in Sunday’s League Cup final, Denis Walsh is adamant that it’s time for him to quit living in Alisson’s shadow and leave Liverpool.

In Gaelic games, Seán Moran concludes that Ulster football is in rude health as he looks back at the first half of the League campaign, with counties from the province heading the top three divisions. And Malachy Clerkin writes about “the humble, damned, eternally spat-upon black card” and how it has “changed how football is played for the better”.

And in racing, Brian O’Connor hears Gordon Elliott give short shrift to anyone whining about his rival Willie Mullins’ success. “These people giving out, they’ve chips on both their shoulders. Willie sets the standard, and we have to chase it, make ourselves better.”


TV Watch: Wales are the visitors to Tallaght this evening for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland (RTÉ 2, kick-off 7.30), and later there are two FA Cup fifth round ties to choose from, Blackburn Rovers at home to Newcastle (BBC 1 and Premier Sports 2, kick-off 7.45) and Luton Town hosting Manchester City (UTV and Premier Sports 1, kick-off 8.0).

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