Ireland hope to end grim window on a high; Gordon D’Arcy on Joe Schmidt’s new role

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

Nations League: Finland v Republic of Ireland, Olympic Stadium, Helsinki, 5pm Irish time – Live Sky Sports Main Event. Photograph: Inpho

Nations League: Finland v Republic of Ireland, Olympic Stadium, Helsinki, 5pm Irish time – Live Sky Sports Main Event. Photograph: Inpho

Stephen Kenny is hoping for a first win as Ireland manager in tonight’s Nations League trip to Finland - a little sparkle to end a grim international window. Aaron Connolly is back to give the team a much needed boost three days after drawing 0-0 with Wales in the same competition without 13 players through a combination of Covid-19 protocols and injuries. And just under a week after their Euro2021 play-off semi-final penalty shootout defeat to Slovakia: “against the backdrop of all that has gone on, it would be a remarkable enough victory and although it would not be anything like enough to eclipse the disappointment he and his team suffered in Bratislava, a couple of goals here would give the new manager one positive memory to take away from this window and a bit of much needed momentum to bring into the next.” The Ireland under-21s have a best runners-up berth in their sights after a 2-0 defeat to Italy in Pisa dislodged them from top spot in their European Championship qualification group. Dundalk move from sixth to third in the Airtricity League Premier Division after a 2-0 win over Cork City at Turner’s Cross.

Galway football champions Moycullen have been forced to pull all their players from the county senior and under-20 panels with immediate effect due to a rising number of positive cases of Covid-19 in the community, including players from within the club. The North’s Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, has announced her decision to recommend planning approval for a new GAA stadium at Casement Park in west Belfast. In his column this morning, Sean Moran anticipates the inconvenience of a Christmas All-Ireland: “the selfsame moon that looked down on the herdsman’s shed in Bethlehem might pick him out behind the glow of floodlighting in the vast expanses of an empty Croke Park on December 19th, as Old Moran details which of two teams will win the weirdest football final in history. Will he know it’s Christmastime at all?”

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