What a difference four years makes. As Gerry Thornley reminds us, when Leinster beat Ulster 21-18 in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup back in 2019, Jamison Gibson-Park was their second-choice scrumhalf and had yet to make his international debut. Now? He’ll go in to Saturday’s meeting between the provinces as “an integral figure in Ireland’s ascent to number one in the world”.
Gerry talks to the player ahead of the game, while John O’Sullivan hears from the Ulster camp where Rob Baloucoune is hoping to put an injury-ravaged few months behind him by making a big impact on Saturday.
Munster, meanwhile, will be in action in Durban where they will take on the Sharks in the last 16, winger Calvin Nash talking to Gerry about the game and how grateful Munster are to welcome back Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray after their Grand Slam-winning exploits.
In Gaelic Games, a busy Sean Moran looks ahead to Sunday’s all-Connacht football league final between Galway and Mayo in the company of Galway forward Rob Finnerty; talks to Kilkenny’s Michelle Teehan about the controversy surrounding this year’s cancelled Camogie All Stars trip to Canada; and pays tribute to Jimmy Gray, one of the most influential people in the Dublin’s GAA history, who died on Wednesday at the age of ninety-three.
Johnny Watterson writes about the grim online racist abuse directed at members of the Irish under-15 football team, noting that it was far from the first time Irish sports people had suffered such abuse, citing the examples of Bundee Aki, Simon Zebo, Jason Sherlock and Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, amongst others.
And Brian O’Connor looks at the potential impact on horse racing of the current “murky mood-music around the betting industry”, with William Hill coming close to losing their licence in the latest of a series of multimillion euro penalties imposed by the British gambling commission.
Telly choice: Pádraig Harrington “reeled back the years” at the San Antonio Country Club on Thursday when his first round 68 left him tied for second at the weather-interrupted Texas Open. You can watch his second round progress on Sky Sports Golf today (1.30pm–midnight).