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Murphy faces tough challenge in Ulster

Gordon D’Arcy on why Richie Murphy has his work cut out for him; Darragh Ó Sé on Armagh’s need for a ruthless edge; Seán Moran on the rising red tide

Gordon D’Arcy doesn’t have the happiest memories of his first meetings with Richie Murphy. He had been invited to train with Leinster shortly after finishing his Leaving Certificate and “nursed hopes of being an international fullback”. But “Richie tormented me in training, exposing my limitations in being able to provide adequate backfield cover”. When it was announced this week that Murphy had been upgraded from interim to new head coach with Ulster, “those memories came flooding back”. No hard feelings, though, he wishes his former comrade well in what will be no easy entrance into senior professional coaching, Ulster “a team in turmoil both on and off the pitch”.

Stepping away from the Irish underage set-up was, Michael Sadlier heard Murphy admit, “one of the toughest things I’ve had to do”, but he’s up for the challenge, his first task after his appointment overcoming Leinster on Saturday at the Kingspan as his team tries to remain in contention for the URC playoffs. They’ll have to do so without their captain Iain Henderson, though, after he was ruled out for the rest of the season due to toe surgery.

Ahead of their key URC meeting with DHL Stormers on Saturday, Connacht have a lengthy injury list to contend with, Mack Hansen among those not expected to feature in the game. But, writes Linley MacKenzie, they’re hopeful that Argentinian international Santiago Cordero will line out for them for the first time.

In Gaelic games, Darragh Ó Sé looks at Armagh’s growing reputation for being “fellas who aren’t going to kill you off ... keep pushing and they’ll crack eventually”. The penalties that decided the Ulster final in Donegal’s favour last Sunday were a “sideshow”, “the real reason Armagh will be cross with themselves is for letting the game get to a shootout in the first place”.


In contrast, Cork’s hurlers will be delighted with themselves after that win over Limerick, one that “electrified the championship”. Are they now “a genie released from the bottle,” asks Seán Moran. Meanwhile, if that genie could grant Johnny McCaffrey even one wish it would most probably be that Dublin’s hurlers beat Kilkenny on Saturday for the first time since 2013. Gordon Manning talks to McCaffrey who captained Dublin on that famous day.

In soccer, Bohemians host the Palestinian women’s team in a sold-out friendly at Dalymount Park this evening, their players overwhelmed by the reception they have received since arriving in Ireland on Sunday. “We’ve seen the love, we’ve felt the love, and we will take it back to Palestine with us,” said team manager Deema Said.

Arsenal fans won’t be feeling much love for Spurs (not that they ever had much) after their 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday evening all but assured that the Premier League title will remain firmly in Pep Guardiola’s grasp.

In cricket, Nathan Johns reports on Ireland’s six-wicket defeat to Pakistan, one that sealed the three match series for the visitors. And in golf, Rory McIlroy’s build-up to this week’s US PGA Championship has been overshadowed by news that he has filed for divorce from his wife of seven years, Erica Stoll.

TV Watch: Celtic will wrap up the Premiership title if they even take a point from their game against Kilmarnock this evening (Sky Sports Football, 7.30), while defending champions Chelsea can go level on points with Manchester City at the top of the women’s Super League if they beat Spurs (BBC Four, 7.15) – with one game to go. Manchester United, meanwhile, continue their thrilling battle to hold on to eighth place in the Premier League when they host Newcastle tonight (Sky Sports Premier League, 8.0).