Sexton crowned the best; Ken Early on McCarthy’s second helpings

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Jessica Moloney with partner Peter O’Mahoney, Rory Best with wife Jodie Best and Laura and Johnny Sexton at the 2018 World Rugby Awards in Monte Carlo. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jessica Moloney with partner Peter O’Mahoney, Rory Best with wife Jodie Best and Laura and Johnny Sexton at the 2018 World Rugby Awards in Monte Carlo. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Plenty to digest on this Monday morning after a weekend of comings and goings, 90s nostalgia and an Irishman crowned World Player of the Year. While lots changed, much still stayed the same as Ireland capped off a superb year with a comfortable victory over the USA before Johnny Sexton’s impressive season was recognised as he was named World Rugby Player of the Year for 2018 at an awards ceremony in Monte Carlo. Ireland’s number 10 became just the second man from these shores to bring home the award after Keith Wood took the honours all the way back in 2001. He was also joined in the gongs by Joe Schmidt as Coach of the Year and Ireland as Team of the Year. It’s been a year to best all years for Ireland but the big stuff is still around the corner with next year’s World Cup looming. And today we should find out if it will be, as it is expected, Schmidt’s last hurrah. The Kiwi is expected to announce his departure date today with Gerry Thornley reporting this morning that it is likely to be this time next year, allowing Andy Farrell to step into the role with Stuart Lancaster also tipped to come on board. It will be a tough loss for Ireland when he does go and Andrew Conway is someone who knows all too well as he praised his “ridiculous” coach after the Munster man bagged a hat-trick on Saturday. “It’s pretty amazing how good of a rugby coach he is. Even sometimes when you are not selected, you almost know it’s probably the right call,” he said.

That trouncing of the USA at the Aviva stadium was followed by an altogether different event the following day as Mick McCarthy was officially unveiled as the new Ireland manager for the second time, 22 years after he was first appointed to the post. The man who led Ireland to the 2002 World Cup is back in the hotseat, but only for two years before Stephen Kenny will step up from his new post of under-21 manager and take on the senior role. FAI chief executive John Delaney, along with McCarthy, were on hand to speak to the media yesterday and it was Delaney who revealed that the decision to sack Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane had been made after the 0-0 friendly draw with Northern Ireland, prior to their final game in charge against Denmark this day last week. Feelings were mixed as to the appointment of McCarthy but, as Ken Early writes, there was a strange sort of emotion going around that may, possibly, have been ... optimism? “You want to give in, you want to believe – but experience has taught you that if you are feeling optimistic then you are probably missing something,” he writes.

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