Hourihane set for left-back experiment; Ireland peaking for Yokohama

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

A Republic of Ireland training session at Abbotstown this week. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

A Republic of Ireland training session at Abbotstown this week. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane is set to slot in at left back in place of the suspended Enda Stevens for tonight’s international friendly against Bulgaria. Older and wiser than in his first stint in the squad, Shamrock Rovers playmaker Jack Byrne is backing himself to carry his terrific domestic and European form into the international fold if given the opportunity at the Aviva. Last night a luckless Northern Ireland team were beaten 2-0 in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Germany at Windsor Park.

Gerry Thornley believes that the pre-Rugby World Cup Phoney war augurs well for Ireland ahead of their tournament kick-off against Scotland in less than two weeks - “clearly the programme was designed to ensure the players peak in two weeks’ time in Yokohama, and Saturday’s performance provided the most compelling proof yet that they are on course to do so.” Former captain and talisman Brian O’Driscoll tells Johnny Watterson that; ‘I absolutely think Ireland can win the World Cup’.

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