Josh van der Flier on top of the world; Gianni Infantino buys into Qatari rhetoric

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

For just the third time ever, an Irishman has won the World Rugby men’s player of the year award. After his stellar year, Leinster and Ireland’s Josh van der Flier took home the sport’s top award for a male player at a ceremony in Monaco on Sunday night. In terms of the other Irish who were up for awards, Terry Kennedy won men’s Sevens player of the year, but Dan Sheehan, Mack Hansen (both breakout player of the year), Andy Farrell (coach of the year), Aimee-Leigh Murphy Crow (women’s Sevens player of the year) and Linda Djougang (women’s try of the year) all missed out on the awards for which they were shortlisted. In terms of the weekend’s on-field action, Gerry Thornley looks back on Saturday’s victory over Australia as an indicator that Ireland have learned how to win without talisman Johnny Sexton - which is no bad thing. Johnny Watterson picks out the five things that defined Ireland’s campaign this November while John O’Sullivan details the Wallabies’ trip to iconic Dublin pub Johnnie Fox’s after their defeat.

Gianni Infantino shocked everyone with his bizarre speech where he identified with a number of marginalised groups on the eve of the World Cup. Among his list, the words “I feel disabled” rang out. Joanne O’Riordan has responded with a powerful open letter to the Fifa president, inviting him to look at what such a declaration means in the context of living with disability in this country. Ken Early also writes about Infantino, offering analysis of his tirade against ‘western’ journalists. Put simply, it feeds into the Qatari narrative that the west is at pains to see such success in the Middle East, the post-colonial attitude of hating the affluence of a former colony. And so the west will do anything to criticise, to undermine, to bully, and to claim false moral superiority over Qatar. “Don’t underestimate the enthusiastic reception for this throughout much of the rest of the world, where nationalists find in Europe an often deserving and always convenient scapegoat,” writes Early.

Denis Walsh also weighs in on Qatar, using this World Cup to look at the question Stephen Kenny asked when he was given the chance to explain his decision to travel to that World Cup: “Where do you draw the line?” Walsh gives a series of examples, from Irish boxers in Qatar, the 1978 World Cup in fascist Argentina to sport’s failure to respond to China’s treatment of Uyghur muslims to show that sport is fickle. The answer to the above question is extremely complicated. In terms of the football that took place yesterday, Gordon Manning reports on Ireland’s unconvincing win over Malta on Sunday night.

Leona Maguire came up short in her bid to take home women’s golf biggest payday, but the Cavan golfer enhanced her reputation to no end with a runner-up finish at the CME Globe LPGA Tour Championship, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, the world number one, getting her named scrawled on to the winner’s cheque. It completer an excellent day for Irish golf, Rory McIlroy securing the Race to Dubai crown while Séamus Power remains top of the FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour