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Mary Hannigan: Wiffen knows Olympic rivals ‘all want to beat me’

Armagh swimmer doesn’t mind having a target on his back; Sean Moran looks back on a famous Dublin-Derry clash; snooker returns to Goffs

After his performances at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha last month, Daniel Wiffen has a sizeable spring in his step. His 800m and 1,500m triumphs were, after all, “absolute masterclasses in freestyle swimming and tactically executed without fault”, as Ian O’Riordan reminds us, so his confidence is sky-high. And he’s not shy when it comes to talking about his ambitions for Paris this summer. “I feel like I can say every day that I want gold, it’s where you want to be ….maybe Doha makes me a bigger target, and they all want to beat me, but you’ve got to embrace it…. my goal is just not to get beaten.”

Wiffen will be part of what is likely to be the biggest Irish Olympic team ever, the current estimate around the 120 mark, Johnny Watterson noting that that would be double the number of competitors we sent to Sydney in 2000. And that presents the chance of (at least) equalling our highest ever medal haul of six from London 2012.

Cork para-triathlete Donnacha McCarthy and para-dressage rider Sarah Slattery, from Galway, are aiming for Paris too, Cliona Foley writing about the efforts they’re putting in to book their places at the Games.

In Gaelic games, Seán Moran recalls the response of new GAA president Jarlath Burns when he saw Derry take on Dublin in the league nine years ago. It was, he tweeted, like watching ‘the death of football’. He’ll be hoping for more attractive fare when the counties meet on Saturday, their first Division One tussle since that 2015 snooze-fest.


In rugby, Gerry Thornley hears from Irish backs coach Mike Catt ahead of the trip to Twickenham while Gavin Cummiskey looks ahead to John O’Shea’s first meeting with the media since his appointment as interim Republic of Ireland manager.

Simon Bracken takes us on a trip down memory lane, back to the days when Goffs was a major snooker venue in Ireland. “I’ve been there when they’ve just finished the horse sales and there’s manure in the place and you still get goosebumps, it’s just a brilliant venue,” Fergal O’Brien tells him.

And Brian O’Connor writes about the long-awaited gambling bill and racing’s efforts to be exempted from the new legislation. “No one ever got poor betting on racing’s sense of its own exceptionalism,” he says. “There’s rarely a profitable angle it doesn’t feel entitled to. Nevertheless, the basic proposition at the heart of all this isn’t an illegitimate one, even allowing for some of the more blatant self-interest underpinning it.”

TV Watch: Athletics’ World Indoor Championships get under way in Glasgow this morning, Ireland having sent a team of 10 to the event – there’s live coverage through the day on Virgin Media Two and BBC2. Munster host Zebre in the URC this evening (TG4 and Premier Sports 1, 7.35), while Derry City welcome St Patrick’s Athletic to the Brandywell in the Airtricity League (RTÉ 2, 7.45).

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