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McCloskey set to start at 12? Just no escaping the Crokes/Glen controversy

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

The Six Nations opener is nigh on 48 hours away, meaning Ireland’s team is due to be named at 1pm today. In most ways, the 23 picks itself, but with two big calls to be made at 12 and in the backrow, Gerry Thornley has had a stab at predicting the team. According to our rugby correspondent who is out in Portugal with the team, Stuart McCloskey is set to beat out Bundee Aki and Jamie Osborne at inside centre, while Peter O’Mahony holds onto his place at blindside flanker ahead of Ryan Baird. Elsewhere, our team-by-team guides continue with Italy in focus this morning. In the space of 12 months, Kieran Crowley’s side have gone from experiencing the worst losing run in Six Nations history to beating Wales and Australia in the same calendar year. If you want all the angles on this year’s Six Nations, sign up for The Counter Ruck, our new weekly rugby newsletter from Gerry Thornley.

16-man gate, the replay controversy, whatever you want to call it, it is the saga that keeps on giving. Last night, it emerged that Kilmacud Crokes appear set to challenge the CCCC’s ruling that their All-Ireland final with Glen should be replayed. As Gordon Manning reports, the “predominant feeling within the South Dublin club appears to be that they are prepared to take their challenge against the CCCC’s decision all the way to the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA), if necessary.” It is rare that a GAA controversy has engulfed the population to such an extent. In his column, Ciarán Murphy details how he drove 270km to watch Galway vs Mayo, in part to get away from the Crokes controversy, only for it to dominate conversations out west just as much as back in Dublin.

In Wednesday night’s live soccer action, Manchester United swept past Nottingham Forest to set up a Carabao Cup final clash with Newcastle. Goals from Fred and Anthony Martial were the difference on the night at Old Trafford as Erik ten Hag set up his first major opportunity for silverware as United boss.

What are you doing to combine your amateur sporting career and education? Former Ireland basketball international Kate Maher has found a way of doing that better than most. Maher, who earned a basketball scholarship to university in America, studied international business and marketing. Now? She is working for Nike, specifically with the iconic basketball brand, Jordan. “I wanted to work for Nike since I was a kid. As an undergrad in the States, I applied for an internship with them but ended up needing surgery on my foot so couldn’t do it. But as a basketball kid it was the ultimate brand. I mean, Jordan ...” says Maher in an interview with Mary Hannigan. Speaking of basketball, Dave Hannigan’s column this week details the actions of James Dolan, the unpopular owner of the New York Knicks. Whatever about the team’s struggles on the court in recent years, Dolan has courted controversy for using facial recognition technology to keep certain paying fans out of Madison Square Garden, the team’s home venue. Hannigan goes on to list a number of issues with Dolan’s leadership of the famous basketball franchise, but ultimately, labels him “the worst owner in professional sports.”