Another huge sporting weekend is upon us where Ireland will face Belgium at Euro 2016, down in South Africa, Ireland take on the Springboks in the 2nd of three tests after a hard fought 26-20 win in the opening test.
Martin O Neill’s men face Belgium who will be looking to respond after their 2-0 defeat to Italy on Monday evening. Wes Hoolahan gave Ireland a 1-0 lead after 48 minutes which was just reward for a positive opening 45 minutes. Ireland will know they need the three points tomorrow to give themselves a real chance of making the last 16.
Over in South Africa Ireland lost CJ Stander to a red card in the first half and then lost Robbie Henshaw to a yellow card but with a new found resoluteness in defence and some clever play in attack they found a way around the might Boks to score tries through Conor Murray and a peach of an effort from Full Back Jared Payne.
The GAA has had a relatively slow start to its season with some rather poor games on offer with defences on top in both football and as Clare and Waterford proved Hurling is now beginning to fall foul of the “Blanket Defence “with both sides packing the half back line and mid field in the hope of gaining the upper hand.
Kilkenny of course restored faith in the game of hurling with a vintage display that saw a new name come to the fore with John Joe Farrell scoring some impressive points. Dublin had no real answer to the power of Kilkenny.
In Munster football , the power houses of Cork and Kerry were expected to make another Munster Final in Killarney while Kerry made light work of Clare in Killarney , Tipperary were making history by defeating Cork in a high scoring game that saw Tipp advance to meet Kerry with only a few points to spare over a Cork team that will have to do a lot of soul searching before the qualifiers begin.
A number of Olympians have also secured there places in Rio with Shannon Mc Curley , Natalyla Coyle and Fiona Doyle among the latest group to secure there safe passage to Rio. Others like Arthur Lanigan O Keffee , Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche have also been confirmed as members of the Irish team that will compete in Rio next August.
There are currently 54 athletes that have been confirmed to compete in 11 sports with others to be added in the next few weeks. There is also a final chance for a number of our male boxers to earn a place on the plane to Rio.
As you can see while the summer was a quiet time in sport in times past we have a number of teams and athletes in competitive action in places like France, South Africa and our boxers are in Baku.
In the last few weeks we have been regaled with tales of Irish supporters in France having the craic and enjoying themselves while other “ Supporters “ from places like England and Russia have been in running battles with Police. Fans from Northern Ireland and Wales have also been well behaved. Thoughts of course go out to the two Northern Irish supporters who died while following their team in France.
The Ireland under 20s rugby team have been quietly going about their business winning all three group games in Manchester and in turn securing a place in the Semi Finals this Monday against Argentina at 5.30pm. They also created a small bit of history by becoming the second Irish team to beat New Zealand after the women in 2014 out in France at the World Cup.
Tomorrow is a huge day for Irish sport with the football team facing Belgium at 2pm and the rugby team look to seal the deal against South Africa at 4pm. Book a seat on the couch early and strap in because it will be a huge day of sport and for god sake don’t forget to breathe…..
Cian Mc Gibney