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No frills All-Ireland draw as Northampton learn about GAA headquarters

If it’s ‘razzmatazz and pageantry’ you want at Croke Park, ‘you’ll have to wait for Taylor Swift’, writes Gordon Manning

The draw for the group stage of the All-Ireland championship was, writes Gordon Manning, “a no frills, meat and potatoes” affair – if it’s “razzmatazz and pageantry” you want at Croke Park, “you’ll have to wait for Taylor Swift”. But it produced a conundrum or two for some of the contenders, not least Galway and Mayo – the simple fact is that whoever loses their Connacht final meeting on Sunday will enter “a more agreeable group”. What about Dublin and Kerry? They have been “dropped on top of a green slope with a gentle downhill route to the All-Ireland quarter-finals”. And that’s “just what they’ll need to recover after such bruising provincial campaigns,” writes Gordon, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

Seán Moran is left wondering why the draw wasn’t “deferred until the provincial campaigns were over”, given that there has been some talk that teams going into their finals might “choose to lose”. The upshot is that “the thread connecting the provincial football championships to the All-Ireland has now frayed to snapping point”.

Darragh Ó Sé runs his eye over the draw and brings us his take on each of the runners and riders, noting, somewhat ominously, that Dublin are “tipping away, doing their thing ... they look better than last year and their young lads aren’t young lads any more”. Despite their defeat to Donegal, he’s not ruling Derry out of the running just yet, and neither, need it be said, is Derry defender Eoin McEvoy who talks to Gordon about his county’s prospects.

In rugby, Gordon D’Arcy reckons Leinster’s prospects of getting the better of Northampton in Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final are very, very good. Their “blend of experience, ambition, desire, tinged with the pain or recent failures, should once again, take them to the threshold of a fifth star,” he writes. Ross Byrne’s form since returning from injury in February has played no small part in their progress, Gerry Thornley talking to the outhalf ahead of the big game.


Brian O’Connor rounds up day one of the Punchestown festival, JJ Slevin “underlining his big-race pedigree with a dramatic last-gasp success on Banbridge in the Champion Chase”. And he looks ahead to today’s main event, with Galopin Des Champs “on the brink of a superb Gold Cup ‘Triple Crown’”.

And Ian O’Riordan hears from Mia Griffin who is on a unique Olympic journey, the Kilkenny women starting her sporting life playing camogie for her county, but now part of the Irish track cycling team that booked its place in Paris last month.

TV Watch: RTÉ 2 has further coverage from the Punchestown Festival this afternoon (3.30), while this evening TG4 have the Munster under-20 football final between Cork and Kerry (7.30). And Virgin Two and TNT Sports bring the first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Borussia Dortmund and PSG (8.0).