Gerry Thornley on RWC warm-up games; taking a look at the intimate art of hurley making

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith of Australia celebrate after taking a catch to dismiss Jonny Bairstow of England during day five of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith of Australia celebrate after taking a catch to dismiss Jonny Bairstow of England during day five of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

We’re still almost a month and a half out from the big kick-off at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan but this Saturday Ireland’s preparations begin in earnest with Italy coming to Dublin for the first of four warm-up matches. It’s quite the difference from the build-up to the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 when ireland played exactly no warm-up games and the players were instead stopped from playing at all for months beforehand. In his column this morning Gerry Thornley writes that those lessons learned from the past show why such games are a neccessary evil. In the penultimate one of those matches – on August 31st – Ireland face Wales in Cardiff. If that sounds like an appetising trip then you can check out our guide on how to get there, how to get tickets and everything else you need to know. After the meeting with Italy this Saturday further cuts will be made to Joe Schmidt’ssquad after Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell became the first to be released yesterday. Don’t forget that you can keep up to date with absolutely everything to do with the tournament in Japan on our dedicated Rugby World Cup website which includes news, analysis, columns, stats, fixtures, pool tables and more coverage than you could possibly need.

On to GAA and this morning Patrick Madden takes a look at one of the more unique crafts in the country – that of hurley making. With little mainstream exposure, hurley manufacturing remains a relatively intimate industry, and going to buy one is an inherently intimate experience. Most of the time it’s impossible to tell the difference between the different hurls used by inter-county players and that contrasts with the heavily-sponsored bats being used by England and Australia in The Ashes. On to football and we’re in full countdown mode now to what is perhaps the clash of the summer so far this weekend – that of Dublin and Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-finals. While Dublin have had a relatively handy course through the championship so far, Mayo have had to go to battle on a number of occasions and, writing in his column this morning, Kevin McStay believes that this weekend could be the last of those battles. Meanwhile, Seán Moran goes through his report card after the Super 8s and writes that the GAA are unlikely to scrap the concept before its third year. Yesterday Mickey Harte waded into the debate over Sky Sports and RTÉ’s championship coverage by saying that the pay-TV broadcaster has brought new life to coverage, despite the viewing figures still remaining extremely low even for games such as that between Mayo and Donegal last weekend.

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