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Tiger Roll denied fairytale ending; Farrell likely to pick a settled XV

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

It is not often you hear the favourite booed for winning a race. Yet that is exactly what happened yesterday at Cheltenham as Delta Work galloped past stable mate Tiger Roll to take the Cross Country Chase by three quarters of a length. Ultimately, the fact that the dual-Grand National hero Tiger Roll, a five-time festival winner, and perhaps the most popular horse in the sport, was denied a perfect career finale in such agonising fashion felt like an injustice. In Wednesday's other much-anticipated race, Willie Mullins filled the last notable gap in his big-race CV when Energumene finally gave him success in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. After rival Shishkin was pulled up at the eighth fence and Chacun Pour Soi blundered and shot Patrick Mullins out of the saddle at the next obstacle, what was one of the festival's most hotly anticipated races turned into a damp squib. Thursday's most lucrative race is the Ryanair Chase but the most intriguing one is the Turners Novice Chase. It will see only four runners, but crucially two of them are early favourites for the Gold Cup in 2023, Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs.

The Ireland team for the crucial Triple Crown decider against Scotland will be named at lunch time today.Gerry Thornley predicts that Iain Henderson will come into the secondrow to replace the injured James Ryan with Kieran Treadwell on the bench, while Jack Conan could be set to a return to the XV at the expense of Peter O'Mahony with Caelan Doris shifting back to six. He may be unlikely to earn a debut on the weekend, but the rise of 20-year-old lock Joe McCarthy from Trinity's AIL side to the Ireland squad in the space of three months is up there with the most meteoric of rises. He is someone who has always outperformed expectations, but after spending a week in Ireland camp, he will never be underrated again.

The Ulster Council's attempt to move Antrim's championship home clash from Corrigan Park because its capacity is only 3,700 risked violating the sanctity of competitive home advantage, according to Ciarán Murphy. Let's not forget that Antrim haven't had a home Ulster game in nine years, and to try and deny them the advantage of playing in front of a partisan crowd - something that would have been a big boost in their quest for a first championship win since 2014 - does not sit well. Fortunately for them, the attempt did not come to fruition and Corrigan Park will still host. Equally, this game is a chance to re-energise the sport by bring championship football back to Belfast, the biggest city in Ulster.

The Fields of Athenry will undoubtedly be belted out at some stage in the Aviva on Saturday, but how has it gone from a melodic ballad to the signature song of Irish sports fans, not to mention everything in between? Dave Hannigan details its extensive history and many appropriations, including when the song was played at the funeral of an American soldier who died in Iraq. Elsewhere, Joanne O'Riordan's column goes further into the news of Ireland's women's cricketers signing full-time contracts for the first time. She's been speaking to skipper Laura Delany on what professionalism means for the squad.