The Morning Sports Briefing

GAA president supports a new Leinster GAA ground, Shefflin may continue, football fixtures come thick and fast while Madigan is fit for The Stoop

Ian Madigan has been cleared fit for Leinster’s trip to The Stoop to face Harlequins in the European Champions Cup at the weekend

GAA ground support

GAA president Liam O'Neill has voiced his support for a Leinster Gaelic games stadium to be built on Dublin's M50 motorway ring-road.

O’Neill was speaking during a media briefing in Boston during the GAA-GPA All Stars tour and he responded to questions about Leinster Council’s refusal to play Dublin’s senior football championship fixtures outside of Croke Park.

Sean Moran was in Boston, and O'Neill said: "There's no county in Leinster, other than Kilkenny or Wexford, that is more than an hour-and-a-half from the M50. And we have to develop a stadium and meet that need in a different way. Rather than dragging them down to Longford and only 9,000, let's go for 40,000 - and we can say 'Right, we have a realistic alternative now.'


“I think the Leinster proposal for an M50 stadium is something that is going to have to be seriously considered by the organisation. It will service Dublin as well.”

Shefflin won’t shuffle off

Elsewhere, Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin may decide to carry on for another year if Ballyhale Shamrocks win the Leinster club hurling final on Sunday.

The 36-year-old is yet to make his mind up on whether or not he’ll continue for Kilkenny into 2016, but the chance to help Ballyhale become the most successful side in Leinster championship history may be enough to keep him going.

Donaghy’s marathon

Austin Stacks and Kerry hero Kieran Donaghy has finally reached the end of a memorable, marathon season. Malachy Clerkin spoke to him after Stacks Munster final victory at the weekend.

Christmas is coming

When do you first really know Christmas is just around the corner? When the streets are mobbed with swathes of people willing to physically hurt each other in order to pick up a bargain present for a loved one? When you can’t turn on the radio or TV for fear of hearing Mariah Carey? Nope, it’s only when the Premier League fixture list starts to get clogged that you know the festive season is upon us. The weekend has only just past and we get another dose of football tonight - joy to all men.

While the unrelenting run of games over Christmas may have scuppered Louis van Gaal's holiday plans he and his Manchester United side welcome Stoke City to Old Trafford tonight on the back of three consecutive wins and in their best run of form all season. All Van Gaal really wants for Christmas is for a quite ridiculous injury list to clear up and it's starting to. Angel Di Maria won't be fit for tonight after limping off with a hamstring injury during Saturday's 3-0 win over Hull City but Ander Herrera, Falcao and Rafael are all back.

Michael Carrick is another who has recently returned to first team action, and he wants United to bring the fear factor back to Old Trafford, he said: "Dominating teams and winning. We've done it in the past but the past is the past. We need to do it again.

“And hopefully as time goes on we can carry on like this and that fear factor will creep back.”

Contracts on the table

Elsewhere Liverpool head to the Kingpower Stadium to face Leicester City tonight, and boss Brendan Rodgers has said the ball is in Steven Gerrard's court as to whether or not he wants to sign a contract extension and stay at Anfield beyond the summer.

Saturday’s win over Stoke marked Gerrard’s 16th anniversary at the club and he spent the most part of it watching from the bench. Rodgers has said Gerrard’s new contract rests on the club captain accepting a reduced role on the pitch, but has said there is a coaching role at the club waiting for him when he hangs his boots up.

Rodgers said: “You get to a stage where you can’t play every minute of every game. Steven is getting to that point of his career and he will speak about the adjustments he needs to make.

“I am categorical, I want him to be here. Maybe there is a role further down the line, to have someone like that beside you in a coaching capacity would be great, but he still has a couple of years to play if he wants to.”

Manchester City head to the Stadium of Light tomorrow with contract issues of their own hanging over them as it looks like negotiations about Joe Hart’s new deal will drag on into the new year. The ‘keeper is keen to stay at City however and is likely to sogn a heavily performance-based contract which would move his pay in line with David Silva and club captain Vincent Kompany.

Madigan fit for The Stoop

Leinster have had some good news ahead of their trip to The Stoop to play Harlequins in the European Champions Cup at the weekend with Ian Madigan being cleared fit to play.

Madigan rolled his ankle during last Friday’s game against Ospreys and while he is likely to be heavily strapped he’ll be able available.

Matt O'Connor is still sweating over the availability of Luke Fitzgerald though, while Richardt Strauss has been ruled out altogether with a hamstring strain.

Isaac Boss has recovered from Influenza and three recent concussion victims, Mike McCarthy, Kane Douglas and Rob Kearney are all following return to play protocols.

Kearney’s back

The other Kearney brother, though, is back from injury, and he's looking to send a message to Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Kearney was one of the trusted wide-men when Ireland won the Six Nations earlier this year but after tearing his cruciate ligament Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo cemented their places back in the side.

Gavin Cummiskey spoke to Kearney about Ireland's autumn campaign and the huge week facing Leinster.

Ulster need Pienaar for must-win

This afternoon former and current Ulster players will be attending a service of thanksgiving for the late, great Jackie Kyle at a church a stone's throw away from Ravenhill.

Ulster welcome Scarlets to Ravenhill at the weekend in a must win game, and Neil Doak is hoping he can call on Ruan Pienarr to play a part on his comeback from a medial ligament injury. Doak is also hopeful lock Dan Tuohy will also be fit to play after breaking his arm in September.

Ulster are bottom of Pool 3 with one point from two matches and after back-to-back fixtures with Scarlets they travel to play Toulon - gulp.

De Villiers sidelined

Another South African has been in the wars, this time Springboks skipper Jean De Villiers. He dislocated his knee during the 12-9 loss to Wales at the weekend and is expected to be out for eight months, meaning it will be touch and go as to whether or not he’ll be able to lead his side in next year’s World Cup.

Lowry’s early Order of Merit charge

With the Nedbank Challenge now an official tournament on the European Tour Shane Lowry heads into it on the back of a career best season looking to cement his place in the world's top 50 and get a head start on the 2015 Order of Merit.

Nearly €1 Million is on offer for the winner and with a field of just 30 the recently engaged Offaly-man has a great chance of strengthening his current ranking of 47th.

Anticipation building for Leopardstown

Another festive feature to look out for is the Leapordstown Festival, with 55,000 people expected to descend upon the course from Stephen's Day onwards.

Brian O'Connor visited Jessica Harrington's yard, home of the mighty Jezki who is set to go toe-to-toe with Hurricane Fly in the Ryan-air Hurdle.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times