Subscriber OnlySports Briefing

Mary Hannigan: Home comforts on short supply in opening week of league action

Ireland Sevens make history in Perth; Ken Early on Xavi’s disillusionment; more athletics records broken

Home comforts were in short supply on the opening weekend of the Gaelic football season, as Seán Moran notes in his round-up of the results from Division One. Four games, three wins for the away teams, only Tyrone bucking the trend with their victory over Roscommon in Omagh. Derry, Monaghan and Mayo all had fruitful road trips, coming away from Kerry, Dublin and Galway with wins under their belts, Denis Walsh at Austin Stack Park to witness Mickey Harte kickstart his first league campaign at the Derry helm with a one point defeat of Kerry. Like Kerry, Galway were decidedly understrength when they welcomed Mayo to Salthill, Seán Moran on hand to see Kevin McStay’s team drum out a convincing victory, while Malachy Clerkin was over in Croke Park where Monaghan helped themselves to yet another League win over Dublin. And in Division Two, Gordon Manning was in Ballybofey to see the second coming of Jim McGuinness, one that began with a big win over Cork. In the women’s football league, Kerry, Meath and Armagh made it two wins out of two, the 2023 Footballer of the Year Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh coming off the bench to score 1-4 for Kerry in their win over Waterford. All Ireland champions Dublin have still to pick up a point, though, after being beaten by Meath in Navan.

In rugby, Ireland women collected their first ever Sevens World Series gold medal by beating Australia in the final in Perth, while ahead of Friday’s Six Nations opener against France in Marseille, Andy Farrell’s players are in the Algarve fine-tuning their preparations. Johnny Watterson, meanwhile, takes a look at England’s Six Nations hopes, reckoning “anything above third place would be seen as positive for them this season”. If Full Contact, the Netflix series on last season’s Six Nations, “is your introduction to rugby, the language will hit you between the eyes,” writes Denis Walsh. “Damage. Inflict. Primal. Violence. Carnage. Ferocious.” And that class of talk was jarring in an episode that featured the Italian flanker, Sebastian Negri, leaving the field on a motorised cart, his head cradled in a padded brace, heavily concussed from a collision.

In football, Ken Early writes about a disillusioned Xavi’s decision to quit his job as Barcelona manager at the end of the season. “It was always going to be a struggle to move on from the era of Messi,” says Ken, “but it’s surprising how bad a job Barcelona have made of it.”

Ian O’Riordan brings news of a bright weekend for Irish athletics, Andrew Coscoran lowering his Irish indoor 5,000m record by over four seconds and five Irish runners running sub four-minute miles. And in golf, Tom McKibbin had an encouraging weekend too, maintaining his solid start to the season with a tied-16th place finish in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship in the UAE.


TV Watch: TG4 has highlights from the weekend’s National League games tonight (8pm-9pm), and there’s plenty of football on offer too - including Cape Verde v Mauritania (5.0) and Senegal v Côte d’Ivoire (8.0) in the Africa Cup of Nations, both games on Sky Sports Football, while Premier Sports have the FA Cup fourth round tie between Blackburn and Wrexham (7.30).

  • Sign up for Sport push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone