Noel McGrath keeping Tipp ticking, Joe Schmidt trims Ireland squad

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

Chris Jordan presents Jofra Archer with his Test cap at Lord’s. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty

Chris Jordan presents Jofra Archer with his Test cap at Lord’s. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty

The All-Ireland SHC final is just days away, with Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary renewing rivalries with Brian Cody’s Kilkenny in Croke Park on Sunday. And in this morning’s GAA statistics column Eamon Donoghue has identified the key man to Tipp’s hopes of lifting Liam MacCarthy - Noel McGrath. This season has seen McGrath move into the midfield, and the switch has been a resounding success. He writes: “In all he has scored 1-18, and assisted 2-19 in seven championship matches. So as well as averaging just under four assists and converting 0-3 per match from the middle of the park, he has scored or assisted 22 per cent of Tipperary’s total en route to Sunday’s All-Ireland final.” And he suggests McGrath is the catalyst behind free-flowing Tipp’s revival in Sheedy’s first season back at the helm: “Tipperary’s interplay has been a joy to watch, with so many threats and so many capable and willing to assist. Central to knitting everything together though, in the middle of it all, is Noel McGrath.”

Elsewhere Joe Schmidt trimmed his Rugby World Cup squad further yesterday, with John Cooney, Finlay Bealham and Mike Haley all cut ahead of Ireland’s warm weather training camp in Portugal this week. Schmidt must cut another nine players from his 40-man party ahead of Japan but his decisions are currently clouded by Joey Carbery’s ankle injury, with the IRFU confirming yesterday he is facing up to six weeks on the sidelines. This makes him a major doubt for Ireland’s two opening RWC fixtures against Scotland on September 22nd and Japan on September 28th. Meanwhile Jamie Heaslip has defended the selection of Munster’s South African lock Jean Kleyn, who made his Ireland debut against Italy last weekend after qualifying through residency. He said: “Bloody hell, people gave out to me at times for not being Irish because I was born in Israel,” he says. “People can’t help where they’re born or born into. I suppose it’s all about their actions in the then and now. Kleyn for example, he took his opportunity on Saturday.”

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