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Ken Early on Mick McCarthy II; racing will endure even the harshest criticisms

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

So, John Delaney's great succession plan for the Ireland senior manager's job has been completed. It's not quite the circumstances the former FAI CEO would have envisioned. It's fair to say that would have looked something more akin to him standing between the two men as a happy Mick McCarthy, fresh from leading Ireland to the knockout stages of Euro 2020 and securing some much-needed prize money funds for the FAI, hands over the baton to Stephen Kenny. As it is the passover happened without McCarthy present in a socially distant setting and with Kenny now tasked with getting Ireland through the playoffs and into the Euros. These are strange circumstances for Kenny to get the job there is no doubt that his first year in the post will also be quite strange with a total of 11 or 12 matches, all but one of which will be competitive, coming his way.

This morning Ken Early reflects on McCarthy's second reign as the Ireland manager and concludes that it was a bit of a flop with Ireland fans being deprived of what they wanted more than anything after Martin O'Neill left – that being some change and fresh ideas. McCarthy brought a lot more of the same and now leaves Kenny with an Ireland team in much the same state as he found them, an old and jaded team in search of a new direction. The other potentially sticky issue now for the FAI is the cost of cutting short McCarthy's contract as well as the increasingly likely scenario of having to do the same for Robbie Keane's. Ireland's record goalscorer has not been named among Kenny's coaching staff – which will be made up of Keith Andrews, Damien Duff and Alan Kelly – and yesterday the FAI's interm CEO Gary Owens didn't sound like a man too confident that a new role would be found for him and very likely not one to warrant the close to €500,000 which he is believed to be due over the remaining two years of his contract.

Moving on and Brian O'Connor writes in his column this morning that horse racing is still in the dog house after the potentially explosive consequences of going ahead with the Cheltenham Festival but it remains a magnificent triviality. "It's reassuring there's a few hundred years of evidence to remind how the essential appeal of a galloping thoroughbred endures far beyond what's in vogue," he writes. On Saturday it was the virtual form of racing that took centre stage in the Virtual Grand National which was watched by over five million people and raised almost ¤3m for the NHS and the Irish Red Cross through bookies' profits. Potter's Corner eventually came home to victory in the finest of virtual style with Mary Hannigan writing in her column that one of the most intriguing aspects was getting a good snoop around the living room of host Nick Luck.

Next in our series of favourite sporting moments this morning is Keith Duggan's memories of Donegal and Kildare's high summer street opera in Croke Park. "It didn't feel like a Gaelic football match at all anymore. Instead, it had the timeless feel of a baseball game: that it might go on forever and the hypnotic back-and forth sway of one of those big summer tennis games," he writes.


Finally to soccer and Premier League clubs anticipate having to start individual negotiations over wage reductions with their players after attempts to reach a collective pay agreement in response to the coronavirus crisis were frustrated during talks on Saturday.

Ruaidhrí Croke

Ruaidhrí Croke

Ruaidhrí Croke is a sports journalist with The Irish Times