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Ireland learning lessons a year out from World Cup; GAA needs specific eye-gouge law

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

Two nil down and staring into a winless tour, not to mention a heap of other collateral damage in terms of injuries and reputation that could well come, Ireland are in a hole on this New Zealand tour. However, Gerry Thornley argues this morning that, by taking one of the hardest touring options of any of the northern hemisphere teams currently on their travels, Ireland are learning valuable lessons a year out from a World Cup. That’s much better than the alternative, which would be to wait until France 2023 when those same issues are unfixable. Looking back at Saturday’s first Test, Owen Doyle believes Ireland have a case to make to World Rugby when it comes to New Zealand’s breakdown work: “New Zealand appeared adept at quickly positioning bodies past the ball after the tackle, and side entry certainly wasn’t out of the question. It made contesting possession very difficult, impossible at times.” One All Black who definitely won’t have his ruck work questioned again is Sam Whitelock who looks set to miss the rest of the series after suffering a delayed onset concussion. His demise is the opposite fate to Johnny Sexton who returned to training on Tuesday despite a head knock of his own last Saturday.

“I see no reason why the GAA does not incorporate a specific eye-gouging rule, which attracts a minimum of 12 months as suspension and a repeat infraction carrying a life ban from the playing of Gaelic games. That would put an end to this horrible act.” Kevin McStay finds it hard to fathom that Armagh’s Tiernan Kelly will miss all of his club championship matches after his actions during the Armagh-Galway brawl, but no intercounty championship games. Six months is a hefty ban, but does the punishment match the crime given Kelly will not miss any of Armagh’s most important game time? Elsewhere, on the managerial merry-go-round, it looks like Mike Solan and Pat Ryan will be the next two men to lead Mayo football and Cork hurling respectively.

It looked like flat caps took the place of actual tickets at Adare Manor as the JP McManus Pro-Am got under way on Monday. Crowds flooded in to see their heroes, golfers and celebrities alike, with one group that featured Luke Donald, Bill Murray, Jamie Dornan and Niall Horan getting particular attention, as David Gorman reports. “Two local girls, teenagers Ellen and Niamh Hayes, were two such fans who stopped by after Horan’s tee shot to take a selfie. The exhilarated girls turned to their father and said ‘well, that’s our year made.’” On a more serious note, Graeme McDowell is at Adare Manor and spoke of the reaction to his LIV golf defection: “I hate kind of where it puts me from a headline point of view and kind of what it makes it all look like...In hindsight, I wish I had said nothing.”

In Monday’s Wimbledon action, Nick Kyrgios continued to rattle cages in the draw as he reached the quarter-finals for just the second time in his career. Rafael Nadal also advanced to the last eight with a straightforward win, as did Simona Halep as she beat Spain’s Paula Badosa 6-1 6-2 in 60 minutes. In hockey, Ireland look to bounce back from their opening World Cup defeat against the Netherlands when they take on Chile later today.