Ireland face crucial Finland clash; Rassie Erasmus’ punishment must fit the crime

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

Katie McCabe and Megan Connolly in training action ahead of Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Roni Rekomaa/Inphoa

Katie McCabe and Megan Connolly in training action ahead of Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Roni Rekomaa/Inphoa

 

Tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Finland in Helsinki represents a crucial opportunity for the Irish soccer team to translate recent good form into a positive competitive result. After a friendly victory over Australia and pushing Sweden close last week, Vera Pauw’s side have the public praising their upward trajectory, but victory tonight is still needed to show that they are on track. As Gavin Cummiskey writes this morning, we are witnessing the prime years of the best players to pull on the Irish shirt, a fact which needs to be capitalised on to ensure a successful quest for World Cup qualification. In men’s League of Ireland action, last night saw St. Patrick’s delay Shamrock Rovers’ inevitable title coronation with a victory over Dundalk, a result that plunges the Louth side deeper into relegation trouble. Waterford allayed some of their own relegation issues with a vital win away to Bohs.

In rugby, this morning Gerry Thornley looks at the gap in the schedule that the Irish provinces now have to deal with. Thanks to the November internationals, there will be no URC games for a period of four weeks, meaning there will be a battle to ensure match sharpness ahead of the start of the Champions Cup once Ireland’s autumn campaign concludes. After the social media farce that was the Lions tour, Rassie Erasmus is set for his misconduct hearing later this week. After his carefully considered attack on refereeing, it is vital for the game that Erasmus is punished and shows remorse, writes Owen Doyle, in order to avoid putting referees in an impossible position and setting a dangerous precedent.

Rachael Blackmore returned to winning ways in Wexford, riding the favourite Eklat De Rire to victory in the BetVictor M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase. The result comes over 100 days since Blackmore sustained hip and ankle injuries in a fall at Killarney in July. Elsewhere, Bryony Frost has been much talked about of late after her allegations of bullying and abuse against Robbie Dunne, but she returns to racing action this week at Ireland’s first Grade One prize of the National Hunt season in Down Royal. Frost is also in action today in Bangor, and Brian O’Connor has all you need to know ahead of a big week of action for the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over fences at the Cheltenham festival.

Séamus Power and Graeme McDowell are the Irish representatives this week on the PGA Tour as the Butterfield Bermuda Championship has been upgraded to a full FedEx Cup ranking tournament. The increase in status comes as the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai once again falls foul of Covid travel restrictions. Its demise from the schedule leaves the European Tour with no tournament at all this week - the Shanghai event counted on the two tours either side of the pond. Meanwhile, Nelly Korda, who had been the world number one since June before Jin Young Ko’s win last week, has spoken of the difficulties attached to being in such a position while still so young - Korda is only 23

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