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Conservatism threatens Munster’s season; Tiger back in it at Augusta

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

Conservatism threatens to be the defining feature both of Munster’s season and of Johann van Graan’s tenure at the province. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

A tale as old as time for Munster but one worth telling nonetheless. A focus on stopping the opposition rather than on one's own game plan with ball in hand once again hindered Munster in their loss to Leinster, and it could come back to bite them again in the Champions Cup double-header against Exeter, as Gordon D'Arcy sees it. If this conservatism reigns supreme once more, they will be relying on a pair of off-colour performances from the English side if they wish to progress. Elsewhere, any buoyant mood in Leinster after their interpro win will have been overshadowed by the news that Dan Leavy has retired after failing to shake off a brutal knee injury suffered almost three years ago. Gerry Thornley looks at how the backrow's star shone brightly but all too briefly. In the international camp, Christy Haney has been discussing the lessons Ireland will take from their defeat to France.

We're just over 24 hours out now from the start of the first major of the year. The annual conversation on Rory McIlroy's quest to complete his career Grand Slam with a Master's title has once again kicked up, but the Holywood man continues to maintain that time is on his side in that regard. One topic that did manage to drown out that familiar narrative is the constant 'will he, won't he?' question of Tiger Wood's involvement just one year after his horrific car crash. Now that we know that he is playing, Philip Reid looks at the challenges faced by the 2019 champion.

Last night's soccer action saw wins for Liverpool and Manchester City that put them in control over their respective ties against Benfica and Atletico Madrid, albeit City's slender one-goal lead will be severely tested during their return leg in the Spanish capital. In terms of coverage of the Champions League quarter-finals that are dominated by English sides, British channel BT Sport were found wanting when it came to preparation. Joleon Lescott previewed Chelsea's first leg against Real Madrid taking place on Wednesday: "I think the way they're playing at the moment . . . yeah, they look like they can go all the way again." This three days after the oligarch-less Chelsea were mullered 4-1 at home to Brentford. Leanne Kiernan is thriving after making the move from West Ham to Liverpool, but is still on the outside looking in when it comes to Vera Pauw's starting Ireland XI. Kiernan talks to Mary Hannigan about her quest to change that. In domestic action, Liam Burt's lone goal saw Bohs secure a first win in six away to Sligo. 

With the league secured, now the attention turns to Kerry's true goal, the championship. It clearly seems redundant to say that an All-Ireland title (or lack thereof) will be the measure of the Kingdom's success this year, but it is all the more important for Jack O'Connor after he was somewhat controversially put in charge of the panel last year. Despite securing the league title last weekend, Seán Moran says the pressure is still on O'Connor. After all, the failure to build on the last two pieces of league silverware is why O'Connor was appointed in the first place. Sticking to Munster, Cork's Patrick Horgan remains adamant that a grá rather than a hunt for a maiden all-Ireland crown is what keeps him going aged 34.