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Mary Hannigan: Focus returns to Ireland manager and future of Jonathan Hill after Swiss loss

Underperforming Ulster on and off the pitch; Joey Carbery’s fresh challenge; Jordan Larmour springs back; GAA’s old culture wars return

Before last night’s game against Switzerland there was, writes Ken Early, a “tidal wave of optimism sweeping John O’Shea into the top job in Irish football”, but it’s one that has subsided a touch after that 1-0 defeat. It was, he says, typical of meetings between these nations: “few chances, much frustration, and the Swiss coming out on top.” Not that this brief interim shift has lessened O’Shea’s enthusiasm for management, “it’s only given me a taste for more,” Nathan Johns heard him say after the game. But as Gavin Cummiskey notes, these are “grim days on and off the pitch”, the future of FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill now rumoured to be in doubt following “his damaging appearance before the Public Accounts Committee in Leinster House last month”.

These are grim enough days for Ulster rugby too. They have, writes Gerry Thornley, “underperformed so badly both on and off the pitch in the past year that they’ve lost both their head coach and chief executive in the last month”.

Joey Carbery has had his own challenges too, the Munster man not involved in the Irish set-up since the 2022 Autumn Series. Johnny Watterson heard him talk about his decision to look for pastures new, the outhalf making the “bittersweet” decision to leave Munster this summer.

It’s been a challenging spell too for Jordan Larmour, but he returned to Leinster at the start of the week with a spring in his step after getting his first taste of Test rugby in almost three years having come on against Italy and started against Scotland in the Six Nations. He and his Leinster comrades have a busy schedule ahead, Gordon D’Arcy taking us through the upcoming challenges they and the other provinces face in the URC and Champions Cup.


In Gaelic games, Seán Moran reports on “an outbreak of the old culture wars” when a number of requests from soccer and rugby for the use of Croke Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh came up for discussion at a Central Council meeting last Saturday. And Ian O’Riordan talks to Derry’s Brendan Rogers ahead of his county’s Division One final against Dublin on Sunday.

Ian also spoke with Mayo runner Hugh Armstrong ahead of his appearance at Sunday’s World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, while Brian O’Connor reports on the recent upward curve in Irish racing’s festival attendances, Fairyhouse officials confident they can maintain the trend in their upcoming Easter festival.

TV Watch: After their 3-0 win away to Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, Chelsea’s women have one foot in the last four – they’ll attempt to finish the job at Stamford Bridge this evening (TNT Sports 2, 8.0). And earlier, Lyon take a 2-1 lead in to their quarter-final against Benfica (TNT Sports 2, 5.45).

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