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Leinster look forward to the next bit of silver on offer

Jacques Nienaber knows where Leinster went wrong; Darragh Ó Sé knows where the GAA went wrong; John O’Shea thinks Duffer has it wrong


Will losing three Champions Cup finals in a row leave Leinster mentally scarred? Not if they won’t let it, argues Jacques Nienaber. “When the past comes knocking on the door, don’t even open it, because the past has nothing new to tell you,” Johnny Watterson heard him say. “It’s got no bearing on what happens tomorrow or the day after. The past is the past and it’s done.” Still, lessons can be learnt from that defeat by Toulouse, and Nienaber identifies “three things that stand out” from the game, Gordon D’Arcy using his column too for a post-mortem. It was, he writes, “one of the tensest finals I have ever witnessed, a battle of inches”. “There is no shame in losing a match of that ilk,” he says, but he wonders if Leinster’s “preoccupation” with defence came at a cost to their attack. Too often in the final, he suggests, it was “predictable”, mirroring much of the season when their attack “has struggled to maintain a high level consistently”.

But it’s back to the grind on Friday, Leinster hosting Connacht in the URC, while Ulster head to Thomond Park on Saturday to take on Munster – who are set to announce the signing of South African Thaakir Abrahams as the direct replacement for Simon Zebo. Ulster should have a spring in their step after beating Leinster last time out, “no longer is a sense of optimism an entirely alien prospect at the northern province,” writes Michael Sadlier.

In Gaelic games, Darragh Ó Sé rues the the minor grade being switched to under-17 – “bottom line, the GAA should go back to under-18 and under-21 as soon as possible,” he says. With the championship approaching the halfway point, Seán Moran asks “how has it been for you: happy, apprehensive, dejected?” A Tipperary hurling follower will fall in to the third category, a Donegal football supporter in to the first, which is where the Kilkenny faithful should find themselves too.

“Remarkably,” writes Gordon Manning, “this is the first year since the inception of the round-robin system that Kilkenny have gone through the group stages unbeaten.” And they did so with a set of players “very much moulded out of the team left behind by Brian Cody”. Gordon also catches up with Hannah Tyrrell, the 33-year-old spending the winter “weighing up whether to return to the Dublin squad for the 2024 season”. She’s back.

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Gavin Cummiskey, meanwhile, heard from interim Republic of Ireland manager John O’Shea on Tuesday when he announced his squad for the upcoming friendlies against Hungary and Portugal. What did he make of Damien Duff’s view that he has been “hung out to dry” by the FAI? “Damien is entitled to his opinion,” said O’Shea, “I don’t feel that’s the case.” And we hear from Jess Ziu who is back in the full of her health after overcoming an ACL injury and is hoping to play her part in the Euro 2025 qualifying double-header against Sweden.

TV Watch: Eurosport continues its coverage of the French tennis Open today (9.30am-10.30pm), among the standout games the meeting of defending champion Iga Swiatek and former number one Naomi Osaka. And this evening, TNT Sports 1 and Virgin Media Two bring you the Europa Conference League Final between Olympiakos Piraeus and Fiorentina (8.0).