Premier League returns with no shortage of drama; Connacht set for Champions Cup
The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team
The Premier League made its eagerly anticipated return after 100 days in lockdown. Photograph: Getty Images
There was no shortage of drama as the Premier League returned behind closed doors on Wednesday evening. Sheffield United were denied all three points when goalline technology system Hawk-Eye failed to record a clear goal in their 0-0 draw with Aston Villa. Manchester City were impressive 3-0 winners over Arsenal, delaying Liverpool’s title celebrations. City’s victory means the European and World champions cannot seal the title at Everton this weekend. Ireland’s Euro2020 playoff semi-final away to Slovakia has been confirmed by Uefa for October 8th with the any final pencilled in for November 12th, and the Nations League campaign now looks set to kick off as originally planned with a trip to Bulgaria on September 3rd. It was also confirmed by Uefa on Wednesday that Lisbon has been selected as the venue for a mini-tournament to conclude this season’s Champions League - one-leg quarter and semi-finals and the final will be played. Following the latest talks between the FAI and clubs, the timings envisaged for the Airtricity League’s return involve an August 1st start and end of November finish with the FAI Cup final retaining its traditional slot at the start of that month. It was also confirmed by Uefa on
Connacht are virtually certain to join the other three Irish provinces in next season’s Champions Cup following an agreement reached by the board of Celtic Rugby to make the Conference tables as they stood in mid-March after 13 rounds the cut-off point for European qualification. The former Munster number eight James Coughlan has become the latest Irishman to head for the Top 14 by joining Brive as their defence coach and assistant forwards coach in tandem with the one-time French hooker Marc del Maso. In Wednesday’s racing at Ascot, Aidan O’Brien’s star older colt Japan fluffed his lines leaving Lord North to lead home a rare Group One finish. Japan started 6-4 favourite but little went right for him having missed the kick at the start and he finished fourth. Brian O’Connor explains how Stradivarius will try to confirm his status as the sport’s top stayer and enter the Ascot Gold Cup’s most exclusive company later today (Gold Cup is underway at 3.35pm). O’Brien has no runner this time with his big hope, Kew Gardens, ruled out. In his absence there has been an expectation that a Gold Cup hat-trick is all but inevitable for Stradivarius.