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O’Gara bullish on La Rochelle chances; Derry and Donegal to be tactical battle

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

The European Champions Cup final countdown continues this week and one of the biggest points of interest will be the coach of Leinster's opponents, La Rochelle, the great outhalf-turned-coach Ronan O'Gara. The former Munster man had a strong rivalry with Leinster number 10 Johnny Sexton as a player and he will set his task of stopping the threat of "resilient" Sexton in the final if La Rochelle are to get a result. Meanwhile, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster stresses the need for Leinster to roll with the punches and adapt in key week of training before the encounter.

Gerry Thornley writes in his column that years of hurt prime Leinster for physicality of Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle. Most of the metrics suggest Leinster have been the best team in this season's competition, but of course, all of this counts for precious little come Saturday. Wayne Barnes has been chosen as the referee for the final and Owen Doyle writes that three finals is a huge achievement for Barnes and he is standing the test of time.

Kevin McStay writes that the Ulster final will serve up a tactical treat between Donegal and Derry at Clones: "I would invite people to embrace it. This is a different game under different parameters. It will be hugely tense". McStay focuses on kick-outs, which are now "the critical metric in deciding majority of Gaelic football games". Monaghan have drawn Mayo and Armagh have drawn Tyrone in the two stand-out games of the qualifier draw. Monaghan boss Séamus McEneany says he thinks the Farney can still have a big say in the championship, but they must go to Castlebar and pull off a famous win. In hurling, Wexford's Darragh Egan looks for consistency amid a rollercoaster campaign as winning two, drawing two and losing one has seen Wexford into preliminary quarter-finals.

In golf, Justin Thomas's US PGA win shows the value of a good caddie as the winner hailed the help of veteran caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay, the former caddie of Phil Mickelson, in helping him to stay calm and confident at Southern Hills. The tournament may be remembered more, however, for Chilean golfer Mito Pereira's disastrous double bogey on the 72nd hole to miss out on the play-off, but the golfer vows to learn from the experience.

In tennis, Naomi Osaka lost in the first round of the French Open and the Japanese player has said she may skip Wimbledon after WTA's decision to remove ranking points and likens event to exhibition after decision amid ban on Russian and Belarusian players.

Drogheda United pulled off one of the shocks of the season when they defeated league leaders Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland last night, although Rovers's disappointment was lessened by Derry City also slipping up, falling to Sligo Rovers. The results bring Dundalk into the title race after a win against Finn Harps.

In the Premier League, Erik Ten Hag was unveiled as Manchester United manager and he believes Manchester United can end the dominance of their rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in English football. Meanwhile, the Chelsea sale to Todd Boehly group set to be completed this week, with the UK government optimistic that Abramovich's £1.6bn loan to the club will not go to the Russian.

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