Dublin Manager Dessie Farrell. [Inpho/Ryan Byrne]

Dubs not panicking yet

The National Football League resumes this weekend with a strange look to the Division One table. All-Ireland champions Dublin are the only county in Division One without a point, after defeats to Monaghan and Mayo. Dubs manager Dessie Farrell is not panicking, saying:  ‘‘We still have a few bodies to come back. We knew that we were coming into it behind the curve a little. A lot of the teams, from what we understand, have been back a long time and have a lot of work done.’’ On Saturday night Dublin should get their first points on the board when Roscommon visit Croke Park. 

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Now, do high-flying Mayo want to win the National League again this year? Last year in what was his first year in charge Kevin McStay led his native county to win the League title, but the following week they were knocked out of the Connacht Championship by Roscommon. If Mayo qualify for the League final this year, the same situation will apply, but this year their first game in the Connacht Championship will be against New York at Gaelic Park on April 7. On this coming Saturday night, Mayo travel to Tralee for what is sure to be a full house against Kerry. With the Clifford brothers David and Paudie back in action Kerry will provide a good test for Mayo. Derry, joint leaders of Division One with Mayo will probably be too strong for Monaghan at Celtic Park on Saturday. In Division Two it’s already looking worrying for Cork and Kildare, who are both without a point. On Saturday Cork could beat Cavan at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, but I cannot see Kildare getting anything when they play Armagh, now managed by their former manager Kieran McGeeney at Dr. Cullen Park in Carlow on Sunday.



Jerry Flannery was last week confirmed as South Africa’s new defence coach. The former Munster and Irish hooker will take charge of the Springboks’ defence with Tony Brown appointed attack coach and Rassie Erasmus returning to the role of head coach, having acted as Director of Rugby on South Africa’s run to their successful World Cup title defence last year. Flannery replaces former Munster and Ireland player Felix Jones, who joined Steve Borthwick’s England set-up after the World Cup. Flannery was defence and lineout coach at Harlequins since 2020 having previously worked as scrum coach and forwards coach with Munster. Flannery represented Munster 93 times and won 41 Irish caps. Erasmus is returning to the Springboks as the head coach role following Jacques Nienaber’s move to Leinster. Flannery’s last game with Harlequins will be a friendly against Munster at The Stoop on Feb. 23.



The GAA’s top officials have poured cold water on a potential naming rights deal in the near future for Croke Park. Speaking last week at the launch of the GAA’s 2023 financial report and report for Congress 2024, Director General Tom Ryan said that while still talking about hypotheticals, there was no drive, no desire to entertain the idea. That was backed up by GAA president Larry McCarthy who said that: ‘‘many iconic stadiums have no naming rights, and this is an iconic stadium.’’ McCarthy, whose three-year term will come to an end at Congress later this month, also said that he was very happy that the recent Páirc Uí Chaoimh situation was resolved, particularly that the O Caoimh family were happy with the outcome.



Former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has rejoined the Belfast Giants ice hockey team on a second short-term loan spell. Cech, 41, returns as temporary emergency cover, making the move from English side Oxford City Stars. This is the netminder’s second spell in Belfast this season, following an initial loan period in November 2023. Cech made his professional ice hockey debut for the Giants in a 5-1 win over the Glasgow Clan at The SSE Arena. Adam Keefe, Head Coach of the Belfast Giants said: “Petr was a great guy to have around the locker room during his last loan period with the Giants, and his experience and knowledge of performing at the highest level is invaluable.’’ Cech retired from football in 2019 and subsequently started playing ice hockey. He made almost 700 senior appearances across a glittering football career, winning four EPL titles and one Champions League crown with Chelsea.



St Patrick’s Athletic made a bit of history recently when they played two cup games on the same day, against different opposition and both away from home. This year the Leinster Senior Cup competition has been organised on a group basis and in the morning St Pat’s beat UCD 2-1 at Belfield while in the afternoon they fielded a different XI who drew 2-2 with non-League St Mochta’s in Porterstown, West Dublin. The win and the draw was enough for the Saints to qualify for the quarter-finals of this old cup which was first contested in the 1892-93 season.



There may be more than one rugby club in Ireland that has a mother and daughter on the same team, but the one we know about is Westport where 38-year-old Virginia Conway and her 12-year-old daughter Kayla are currently lining out together. Virgina only took up Rugby during Covid and she is now captain of the Mayo club. She said: ‘‘When Kayla was 12, she was asking to go to rugby training. We were kind of like  no, you are fine. Wait where you are with the Gaelic, but then she just kept on and on about the rugby.’’ Now that they are both on the same team, Virginia admits she can find her mum instincts creeping in at times, saying: ‘‘'I find it hard to tackle her at training, I won’t lie. It’s a mental block.’’



 Dual Champion Hurdle hero Hardy Eustace has died at the age of 27. The hugely popular gelding was trained by the late Dessie Hughes to win 14 times in a 48-race career, including a trio of Cheltenham Festival victories. Having landed the Royal & Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park in 2003 under Kieran Kelly, he returned 12 months later to win the Champion Hurdle at 33-1, partnered by Conor O’Dwyer. Hardy Eustace was a 7-2 joint-favorite for the same race in 2005 when showing tremendous battling qualities to get the better of Harchibald and Brave Inca in one of the most memorable Champion Hurdles of recent times.