O’Neill promises Euro 2020 qualification; remembering Munster’s ‘Miracle Match’
Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team
Ireland’s James McClean and Cyrus Christie stand dejected at the final whistle of the Nations League defeat to Wales. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Perhaps it was a show of defiance in the face of another defeat or perhaps Martin O’Neill has something very special up his sleeve but the Ireland manager’s assertion that “we will qualify” for the Euros despite facing almost certain relegation from the Nations League came as quite the surprise. O’Neill’s promise was on the basis of nothing more than him saying “because I’m good” but it was greeted with surprise by the journalists in the room and will surely be met with the same reaction from supporters, as Ken Early writes. “Either way, this is the sort of promise it doesn’t cost O’Neill anything to make. Either we qualify for the Euros, which makes him Mystic Martin, or we don’t, in which case he’ll be gone anyway,” he writes. While O’Neill seems certain of that Euro qualification, there is little doubt that the feeling around Irish football at the moment is not a nice one. Three defeats in the last four competitive games does not reflect well but the problems extend far simply what’s happening on the pitch. As Emmet Malone writes this morning, John Delaney and the FAI leadership must look at the game from top to bottom and address the fact that we simply are not producing enough players.
On to rugby and Gerry Thornley is looking back this morning at Munster’s ‘Miracle Match’ in which they had to beat Gloucester and also by four clear tries and a minimum of 27 points, or by five clear tries, to progress in the 2003 Heineken Cup and they did exactly that. The late Anthony Foley was a key part of the victory, as the manager on the day – Alan Gaffney – told Gerry Thornley this week. On to the current day and John O’Sullivan writes in his statistics column this week that referees are being a lot more vigilant in Europe this year when it comes to lineouts. This directive has led to the non-throwing team poaching more ball under the new or refreshed application of the laws at the lineout, something that may explain Leinster’s poor record so far. In transfer news, Gavin Cummiskey reports that Nick McCarthy is set to join Munster next season as understudy to Conor Murray. The move comes as Leo Cullen could have five Irish qualified scrumhalves on the books next season when Jamison Gibson Park completes the three year residency requirements.