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Pro game a safe place for amateurs? Did the Dubs ever really go away?

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

Rugby faces a serious problem, specifically Irish rugby. The professionalism debate in the women's game and how a lack of full-time deals hampers Ireland even before they step onto the pitch against a side as talented, well-drilled and, well, professional, as England, continues to rage. What about the issue of player safety? Owen Doyle makes the point in his column today that it is not safe to put amateurs onto the same field as full-time pros. Using both the scrum and the force going through a player's spine, as well as the issue of high tackling, one that threatens both sides but tends to be more prevalent from a team under the cosh and therefore more ill-disciplined, he argues that apart from a results standpoint, the non-stop Trojan effort required to close the gap on the pitch creates unnecessary player safety risks. In today's other rugby column, Gerry Thornley says 'go very far away' to the prospect of a URC 'next gen' league that would detract from the recently rejuvenated AIL.

Are the Dubs back? Did they ever go away? Kevin McStay believes the talent and ability never disappeared during their relegation-doomed league campaign: "Dublin didn't become a useless team. This was known even as we watched them sink in the league. The question was whether they were still a driven team. And in Wexford Park, in all fundamental aspects, they ticked the boxes. What we watched was a team easing into championship form with a daunting level of intent." In other GAA news, Louth manager Mickey Harte and Clare boss Brian Lohan have been speaking publicly since their respective differing fortunes during last weekend's championship action.

So many see Katie Taylor's vulnerability as the risk of getting lured away from her meticulous fight plan and into a messy brawl that sees her knocked down by a heavier puncher. Yet, as Johnny Watterson writes, despite her willingness to go off script, to tear up the best laid plans, she has never actually been sent to the canvas, yet alone knocked out, in her professional career. "She did it twice against Serrano in the fifth round, when she was stuck in a corner and again in the final round, which was more in line with the previous times she broke protocol. It was her choice. Taylor was winning the final round and did win it on all three of the judges' scoring cards, including the judge who scored an overall win for Serrano, yet she stood her ground in what was a captivating climax to the bout."

Ronnie O'Sullivan defeated Judd Trump's comeback in a thrilling World Snooker Championship final to win his seventh crown at the crucible. He now draws level with Stephen Hendry's number of titles secured at the famous venue. In golf news, Philip Reid looks at the strongest indications yet that both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be playing at the USPGA in three weeks' time.