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South Africa game stretched Ireland to their limit; McClenaghan focused on Olympic medal

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

Analysis of Ireland’s fantastic victory over world champions South Africa continues this week and in today’s subscriber only piece, Gordon D’Arcy writes Ireland can’t absorb that South African attrition again and survive at the World Cup. In a quick ruck, high-skill game that stretches us to our limits the rewards are clear, D’Arcy writes, but any material drop-off in this facet of the game and Ireland will struggle. Ireland will not be afforded the same latitude from the first-choice Bok halfbacks, nor can they hope to absorb that attrition indefinitely and survive next time.

As attention turns to the match against Fiji at the weekend, a hungry and fit Jack Conan is looking for game time. The Irish backrow has been confined to bit parts for the last several matches and hopes to see more action. Also in the squad, there is no drop in Cian Healy’s high standards despite his new bit-part role for Ireland. The veteran prop is adjusting to his replacement role and is fully cognisant of how important a strong bench will be at next year’s World Cup. Elsewhere, Graham Rowntree is aware of the proud tradition Munster have against touring international sides as nearly all of the South Africa XV will be familiar opponents to the players. The significance of the occasion, the first ever rugby game at the home of Cork GAA, has not been lost on him.

Ireland’s world gold medallist Rhys McClenaghan is looking forward to going home and “being human” for a week or two, before the long and lonely routine begins all over again as he sets sights on an Olympic medal. The Northern Irishman found the perfect reward at a packed Bank Arena in Liverpool last Saturday afternoon, winning a first global medal for Ireland with a magnificent performance at the 2022 World Championships. “I haven’t touched alcohol in seven months now. It’s going to be nice just to socialise with friends, go home and spend time with family, all those things I couldn’t do when I was in full-time training.”

In horse racing, Honeysuckle is in the running to be crowned Horse of the Year for second year in a row. No horse has ever won the prize back-to-back, but Henry De Bromhead’s Honeysuckle is one of six names in the running on a 2022 list released by HRI on Tuesday. In soccer, Ireland’s Katie McCabe says she won’t be watching the World Cup in Qatar. “It’s a fickle thing what’s going on over there and the whole background behind it,” she said in reference to the host of issues that have mired this World Cup in controversy – not least Qatar’s stance on homosexuality, McCabe a member of the LGBT community herself.


In GAA, Ballybay manager Jerome Johnston Sr is to sit out family reunion with Kilcoo in the Ulster club championship. The Monaghan champions will meet Down champions in the Ulster quarter-final on Sunday. The Ballybay joint manager has three sons – Shealan, Ryan and Jerome Junior – and six nephews involved with Kilcoo. In Seán Moran’s column, he writes that Ballygunner have lit the fuse for an explosive club championship but for all their fluency and class, the All-Ireland champions could be “former” in less than a fortnight.