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Wednesday October 23, 2019

Napoli sink Liverpool as title defence starts with defeat

courtesy of RTE

Napoli's Belgian forward Dries Mertens celebrates his winner

Liverpool began the defence of their Champions League crown on a losing note as Dries Mertens’ penalty and Fernando Llorente’s injury-time strike handed Napoli a 2-0 victory.

On a balmy night at the intimidating Stadio San Paolo, the Reds fell behind in the 82nd minute when Mertens converted from the spot after Andy Robertson had upended Jose Callejon in the area.

Substitute Llorente – part of the Tottenham side beaten by the Reds in last season’s Champions League final – then took advantage of a mistake from Virgil Van Dijk to bag his first goal for Napoli after joining them earlier this month.


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Napoli 1-0 Liverpool – Mertens from the penalty spot after Robertson was penalised for a foul in the box … #RTEsoccer

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Liverpool have started their Premier League campaign with five successive victories but largely struggled for composure in their Group E opener, while they lacked a clinical edge on a night where they were barracked throughout by a boisterous home support.

They were indebted to a couple of crucial saves from goalkeeper Adrian for keeping the scores level and, though Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah went close for the visitors, their errors in the later stages proved costly.

This was their second defeat in Naples inside a year, having gone all the way in Europe’s elite club competition despite losing all three matches away from Anfield in the group stage last season.

It was a tentative start from the Merseysiders, typified by a couple of misplaced passes from Van Dijk, the second of which allowed Napoli to breakaway, and only Adrian’s reflexes and an offside decision spared Liverpool.

The ball was cut back to Fabian Ruiz on the edge of the area and his brace of strikes stung the palms of Adrian before Hirving Lozano headed into an empty net, only for the linesman to correctly raise his flag.

Chances were at a premium for thereafter as Liverpool’s Van Dijk and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly – rated among the two best centre-backs in the world – made telling interventions.

There was a suspicion Koulibaly had tugged Salah’s shirt as the Egyptian livewire broke into the box on the half hour but the Liverpool forward remained on his feet and any appeals for a penalty were muted.

Liverpool were gradually growing in confidence despite the crowd hostility, with Sadio Mane’s strike from a narrow angle saved by the legs of Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret while James Milner’s attempt to find Salah at the back post produced a last-gasp interception from full-back Mario Rui.

The resulting short corner led to the recalled Milner’s delivery being headed inches wide of the far post by Firmino, the visitors’ best chance of the opening 45 minutes on the Brazilian’s 200th appearance for Liverpool.

Despite a promising end to the half, Liverpool were grateful for a world-class save from Adrian a few minutes after the resumption to keep the scores level.

The former West Ham goalkeeper’s fingertips were enough to lift Mertens’ volley from point-blank range over the bar following a tantalising ball to the back post from Rui on the left.

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That’s that. Llorente makes it 2-0 to Napoli and Liverpool are going to start their Champions League defence with a defeat … #RTEsoccer

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Liverpool were then presented with a two-on-one counter-attack moments later but Mane’s belated decision to square the ball to Salah was horribly misjudged and the chance went begging.

Salah was then presented with an opportunity after Kostas Manolas sliced an attempted clearance, with the 27-year-old Reds forward firing across goal which forced Meret into a full-length diving save.

Napoli, though, were gifted a foothold when Robertson was adjudged to have fouled Callejon in the box as he cut in from the right, with Adrian getting a hand to the powerful penalty but not enough to prevent the ball from finding the net.

By this stage, there were deafening boos every time Liverpool touched the ball and they never threatened an equaliser.

However, there was still enough time for Llorente to double Napoli’s lead in the second minute of added time, Van Dijk losing the ball on the edge of the area which allowed the Spaniard to slot beyond Adrian.

Tier two football championship moves a step closer

GAA President John Horan

courtesy of RTE

A tier two All-Ireland football championship has moved one step closer to reality with proposals set to be voted on at a GAA Special Congress next month.

The meeting to discuss the new competition will be held at Cork’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh on 19 October.

Before the delegates will be a motion for the most radical reforms the Association has undertaken since the introduction of the All-Ireland qualifiers in 2001.

On Saturday the GAA’s ruling Central Council met to discuss two separate proposals, despite calls from the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) to delay their vote, and one was the clear winner.

If the Special Congress passes the motion, in 2020 only teams from Division 1 and Division 2 of the league will be eligible for the All-Ireland qualifiers along with any counties from the lower two divisions that happen to make their respective provincial final.

Division 3 and 4 teams will go straight into a tier two championship, which will be run on a straight knock-out basis.

Using 2019 as an example, only Division 1 and 2 teams reached provincial finals this year so the 16 teams from the lower divisions, minus New York, that were beaten in the earlier rounds would all drop into the tier two competition, which is being championed by GAA President John Horan.

This would mean only two full rounds of All-Ireland qualifiers in future as opposed to the current four, though a preliminary round is provided for in years where more than eight teams are eligible to participate in Round 1.

This is essentially revisiting the late and unloved Tommy Murphy Cup, which ran from 2004 and 2008 and was eventually killed by lack of interest from eligible counties.

The GAA are hoping to give every county a realistic shot at winning a trophy in Croke Park, though leaving the provincial structures untouched will do nothing to remove heavily lop-sided results in the early rounds.

Wicklow players celebrate with the Tommy Murphy Cup at Croke Park in 2007
Croke Park have also said that a range of a range of marketing and promotional supports will be committed to the new competition, as well as the use of GAA HQ for semi-finals and finals and a planned increase in TV coverage.

It remains to be seen how the GPA react to this news given that they were against a vote being taken on Saturday.

Also at the weekend Central Council meeting it was decided to forward three of the experimental rules that were trialled during this year’s league.

They are, taking all kick-outs from the 20 metre line, rather than the 13, introducing a ten-minute sin bin for black-carded players, and awarding an attacking mark for a player who makes a clean catch of a pass kicked from outside the opposition’s 45 metre line, that travels at least 20 metres and without touching the ground

It was decided to withdraw the experimental playing rule regarding sideline kick to be kicked forward.

Central Council also agreed to amend the scheduling of Super 8s for the final year of its three-season trial period in 2020.

In Round 1 of the group stage of the All-Ireland quarter-finals, the four provincial champions will be at home against one of the teams who came through the qualifiers as was the case in 2019.

It was also agreed that for 2020, Round 2 will see the winners of the Round 1 matches play each other, while the losers of the Round 1 matches will also face off. The aim of this is to avoid dead rubbers in the final round where possible.

At present there has been a round of games that are scheduled to take place at Croke Park.

It is now planned to give the authority to the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) to fix these games for venues other than Croke Park if deemed appropriate. This would require the approval of a full GAA Congress and it is intended to bring forward a motion on this to Congress 2020 next February.

If passed, this would come into effect for the 2020 championship.




Dundalk away to Sligo Rovers in FAI Cup semi-final

courtesy of RTE

The Showground will host the meeting of Sligo and Dundalk

The draw for the semi-finals of the FAI Cup has been made, with holders Dundalk away to Sligo Rovers, while the winners of Crumlin United v Bohemians will have a home tie against Shamrock Rovers.

Both semis will be played on the weekend, ending 29 September.

Sligo hosted Dundalk recently in the Premier League, with the latter winning 2-0.

Richmond Park will play host to the Crumlin-Bohemians quarter-final on Monday next, so ensuring an all-Dublin last-four encounter.

Shamrock Rovers last won the cup in 1987.

Sligo boss Liam Buckley said: “We’re excited. It’s a tough one obviously and Dundalk will be favourites. They’ve got the big squad, this incredible unbeaten run domestically; they’ve been getting to the final every year.

“They’ve only lost twice this year so that tells you the challenge. We’ll have to be at our very best and when we did get the win earlier in the season I thought it was one of our best displays of the year.

“We wanted a home draw and that lends itself to a great occasion in The Showgrounds. Somebody is going to win the Cup and we’d love to get a final to give ourselves that chance. It certainly won’t be easy but we’ve reached the semi-final so we’ll see where it can take us.

“I’ve experienced getting to a final with a couple of teams and I would love for this group of players to do it. Underdogs can do anything in a Cup game and while it’s going to be very hard, we’ll give it a belt and see how we get on.”

Camogie All-Ireland finals

courtesy of RTE

The senior final gets underway at 4.15pm on Sunday

Sunday 8 September

All-Ireland Camogie senior final

Galway v Kilkenny, 4.15pm

All-Ireland Camogie intermediate final

Galway v Westmeath, 2pm

All-Ireland Camogie junior final

Kerry v Limerick, 12pm


Live blog on RTÉ.ie and on the RTÉ News Now app from 1pm


Live commentary on the senior final on Sunday Sport, RTÉ Radio 1 with Pauric Lodge.

Both finals also live on Spórt an Lae, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.


Sunday will be largely dry and bright with sunny spells. There will be a few outbreaks of rain in the west. Light breezes at first becoming moderate southwesterly. Highest temperatures of 16 to 20 degrees. It will cloud up in western counties during the evening and rain will track across the country on Sunday night.

Kilkenny aiming to avoid three-in-a-row

For the first time since the 2015 All-Ireland final, Kilkenny and Cork will not provide the pairing in the decider.

2013 All-Ireland winners Galway have disrupted the flow by stunning the back-to-back champions Cork in a thrilling semi-final last month.

Ann Downey’s side didn’t suffer the same slip-up in their last-four clash with Tipperary and with their place assured in the final, they will be aiming to pick up a 15th senior camogie All-Ireland for the county.

The Cats captured the All-Ireland title in 2016, ending a 22-year wait to lift the O’Duffy Cup in the process. It was their seventh final appearance since their previous triumph in 1994.

But back-to-back losses in the two All-Ireland finals that followed leaves them facing an unfortunate three-in-a-row in Sunday’s final.

And Kilkenny will be coming up against familiar opposition in their attempt to halt that slide.

In addition to seeing off Cork on the way to this final, Galway also come into Croke Park as National League champions having defeated Kilkenny in the final.

Galway came away with a two-point win in the League Final, though it was 16 scores to 10, but Kilkenny had the same margin in hand in their Championship round-robin clash.

A dejected Katie Power after the 2018 All-Ireland final
These sides also collided in the 2013 All-Ireland final, where Galway also prevailed to won an All-Ireland double alongside their intermediate team.Tony Ward was manager of both Galway teams, and was also in charge when the Tribeswomen picked up their maiden senior crown in 1996.

For this current Kilkenny outfit, the addition of two-time All-Ireland winner Brian Dowling to their coaching ticket has enabled the Cats to implement a more attacking style of play.

Moving star player Anne Dalton from defence up to the forwards has added another dimension to their game. The St. Lachtain’s star is now operating largely around centre-forward, from where she has plundered a stunning 6-11 from play so far this championship.

Even if she were to drift back to the middle to help the likes of joint skippers and sisters, Meighan and Anna Farrell, Kellyann Doyle and Denise Gaule deny Donohue and Niamh Kilkenny the space they thrive in, it will still mean that she is a threat in a creative sense.

In Kilkenny’s quest to avoid losing three All-Ireland finals on the bounce, unleashing their deadly attacking threats could be the difference against Galway.

Galway’s engine

When Cork’s Julia White found the back of the net in the 18th minute of the All-Ireland semi-final, it looked like the defending champions were about to push on and keep their three-in-a-row quest on track.

But Galway’s response was emphatic. They outworked the holders to score six of the next seven points as their superior work-rate came to the fore. The Tribeswomen were even one point at the break, such was the extent of their incredible fitness levels.

The improvement in Galway has been obvious since Cathal Murray took over the reins after last year’s National League, especially once he got a full pre-season into the players. They are significantly more durable physically.

As well as physical and mental strength, Galway are significantly beefed up in terms of the appliance of science and tactical awareness.

Galway’s Niamh Kilkenny
They are bulwarked by a strong core that has known the best days and the worst, with peerless full-back and captain Sarah Dervan the rock of a very impressive full-back line in which Shauna Healy has also been an obdurate presence. Niamh Kilkenny, Aoife Donohue, Ailish O’Reilly and 2013 skipper Lorraine Ryan remain key operators too.

There is fresher blood too however, with teenager Sarah Healy establishing herself among the premier goalkeepers in the game having succeeded Susan Earner three season ago. In particular, the 19-year-old made some stunning saves when Waterford had her side rocking in the Quarter-Final, and one crucial stop in the second-half in the penultimate round as Cork chased a goal.

Former footballer Caitríona Cormican has proven a key addition to the squad and her two points within a minute against the Rebels were critical in keeping Paudie Murray’s crew at bay. Emma Helebert has been a revelation at centre-back and Carrie Dolan has belied her youthfulness with the composure she has shown over placed balls.

Ireland coach praises cut trio for remaining with squad

courtesy of RTE


Kieran Marmion, Will Addison and Jordi Murphy remain with the Ireland squad despite missing out on World Cup selection.

The trio lost out on “narrow margins” head coach Joe Schmidt told reporters ahead of Saturday’s game with Wales in Dublin.

“[They reacted] unbelievably,” Schmidt said of breaking the news to the players, who would all have harboured realistic expectations of making the cut.

“I spoke to them on the phone, I said ‘look, this is not the phone call you want to get, you have fallen outside the squad and there’s some narrow margins’.

“We discussed a few game-related things with them. Those three guys as young men would be brilliant in the squad, they would contribute without a doubt, but we can only have 31.

“It’s very easy for some people on the sidelines to throw barbs on who missed out, you can only find 31 spots, three guys, unbelievably good.

“[We asked them] ‘would you come in train Monday, Tuesday, potentially later in week?’

“[They replied] ‘be there, no problem’.

“It gives us confidence as well that if we lose someone Saturday, we could definitely lose someone in the tournament, to have them training and up to speed would be profitable for us.”

Schmidt indicated that the three players would be kept close but did not say they would be released for their provinces for the first game of the Guinness Pro14 campaign, which starts on 27 September, five days after Ireland face Scotland in Japan.

“It shows the mark of those guys that they are willing to come in; they know that they could be needed,” added Johnny Sexton.

Schmidt said that Joey Carbery is the only player who may not be considered for selection. The out-half would need to train fully on Thursday before coming into the coach’s thoughts.

Sexton is will make his first appearance of the season after the head coach confirmed the out-half would start.

Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls and Cian Healy are all available for selection.

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