One of the greatest World Cup finals ever, one of the greatest sporting spectacles there has ever been. The 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France had everything and in the end football fans the world over feel gratitude towards Messi, writes Ken Early. “On the occasion of his 172nd cap, in his 1,003rd career appearance, he scored his 97th and 98th international goals and scored again in the shoot-out as his team beat France on penalties to win the only trophy that had so far eluded him, and the one that means the most, perhaps the best ever World Cup Final,” writes Early. Messi fulfilled his destiny to make sense of night like no other, writes Sid Lowe. This was his cup; there has never been a story like this, a competition so centred around one man.
“In your life,” asked Gary Lineker, “have you ever seen a game like it?” as Mary Hannigan notes in her TV view. The most hideous of World Cup hosts but the most gorgeous of finals. “Pure breathless, gorgeous, bonkers magic.” Kylian Mbappé did his best to change the script but could not save France, despite scoring a hat-trick, “even Messi could feel the narrative slipping away as Mbappé stirred towards the end of normal time, a two-goal lead vanishing, the story changing from Argentinian fantasy to France establishing themselves as one of the greatest teams of all time.” But the rest is history and Messi got his crowning moment as Argentina won an epic World Cup final.
In rugby, Leinster are sitting pretty but Leo Cullen is keen to keep the pedal down through busy stretch as Leinster filled their boots with a 57-0 win over Gloucester at the RDS on Friday. Graham Rowntree hopes Munster’s battling win in Northampton proves a “launch pad” after an invaluable 17-6 win at Franklin’s Gardens keeps Champions Cup hopes alive. “That’s the proper stuff, to hold a team out like that,” Jeremy Loughman said afterwards. “They’re a good team, they had a big physical pack out today, they picked some big players, some big ball-carriers, and we just kept them out and kept going.” Ulster head coach Dan McFarland is unhappy at the decision to move the Champions Cup game with La Rochelle to the Aviva Stadium at short notice as his team lost 29-36 to French side La Rochelle.
In today’s subscriber only piece, Denis Walsh writes at the darts, the mob divides its affection on a case-by-case basis. “With his kaleidoscope of costumes, and his peacock airs, Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright is the Elton John of darts. On Thursday night the defending world champion came dressed as The Grinch, his signature snakes stencilled on to the shaved flanks of his head, a peninsula of spiked green hair perched on his crown. For the world championships, the Ally Pally looks like a world of make believe, a place of uninhibited escapism and drinking and chanting and tomfoolery.”
In horse racing, Davy Russell announced his retirement from the saddle at Thurles on Sunday after winning on his final ride. The 43-year-old triple-champion jockey won a hurdle race on the Gordon Elliott trained Liberty Dance and promptly brought the curtain down on his glittering career. In hurling, Ballyhale finally found a way past Stephen O’Keeffe to end Ballygunner’s reign. The goalkeeper made a number of stunning saves before TJ Reid fired home his second penalty.