A flat Ireland performance nearly cost them dear as it took a stunning strike from Katie McCabe to avoid a disastrous defeat to Slovakia last night in Tallaght. It’s safe to say that the positivity that engulfed Vera Pauw’s side after victory in Helsinki during the last international window failed to materialise after a 1-1 draw against a side ranked 12 places below Ireland by Fifa. As Gavin Cummiskey states in his match report: “Last month’s 2-1 victory in Finland, who lost on Tuesday night to Sweden, was no mirage but the trick of qualifying for a major tournament has always been the same; beat the teams in and around your standard and steal points on the road.” For her part, Pauw blamed Slovakia’s goal on an eagerness to push high up the pitch, something that left Ireland defensively exposed. In her column this morning, Lisa Fallon calls for more investment into domestic Irish structures: “If the FAI and the Government could become the foundation, the League of Ireland and grassroots clubs can be the pillars, then the future legacy of Irish football would really stand up.”
The URC returns this weekend after a hiatus during the international window, but in the past the domestic league ran concurrently alongside the Autumn internationals as younger players took advantage of the Ireland players being away to see more game time for the provinces. As John O’Sullivan writes, the lack of provincial fixtures could have been offset by the AIL, but a combination of the provinces being reluctant to release players plus a lack of AIL games themselves ensured that game time has been hard to come by for some. Over in England, Exeter Chiefs have finally agreed to change their team branding after a majority of supporters showed their support for a move away from the club’s Native American imagery.
Johnny Watterson takes a look at one of golf’s notorious rivalries, that between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau. The sport likes to play up their apparent feud from time to time to boost interest in whatever the latest tournament is, but the only time anything has actually come to a head is when a fan was thrown out of the BMW Championship earlier this year for shouting ‘Brooksy’ at DeChambeau on the course. When you look at other sports, like boxing, and their feudal history, well, let’s just say there are some actual theatrics on display. Meanwhile on the European Tour, Niall Kearney was the best of the Irish on day one of the Joburg Open after carding a one-under 70.
Seán Moran has been speaking to Michael Cleary, the Tipperary All-Ireland winner. Cleary believes that the reduced amount of hand-passing in club hurling makes for better entertainment. It’s been a bone of contention for a while, the number of hand-passes in defiance of the rules that are nonetheless allowed in matches, especially intercounty. Whether a shift away from hand-passing is mirrored in the intercounty game remains to be seen.