Thursday Evening Sports Update

RUGBY

Joe Schmidt has made four changes to the Ireland side for Saturday’s Test with the All Blacks at the Aviva.

Rob Kearney replaces Jordan Larmour at full-back, while Garry Ringrose – as expected – comes in for the injured Robbie Henshaw to partner Bundee Aki in the centre.

Iain Henderson makes way for Devin Toner in the second row, while the injured Sean O’Brien is replaced by Leinster team-mate Dan Leavy at openside.

Kieran Marmion has overcome an ankle issue to take his place at scrum-half.

The game will see Aki come up against the country of his birth.

But Schmidt says the Connacht centre won’t feel any pangs of conflict.

Centre Garry Ringrose says he’s excited to be back in the team.

New Zealand named their side this morning, with Ryan Crotty coming in for the injured Sonny Bill Williams.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is full of admiration for Ireland’s style of play.


SOCCER

Michael Obafemi has committed his international future to the Republic of Ireland.

The Dublin-born Southampton striker trained with the squad this week, but also qualifies for Nigeria and England.

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill yesterday suggested Obafemi would not be travelling to Aarhus for the Nations League game with Denmark as he contiued to assess his options.

But Obafemi’s agency – Playerworks CSM – have released a statement saying, “Michael was born in Ireland, so this is the country he naturally wants to play for.”

The 18-year old could earn a first cap as early as tonight.

The Republic of Ireland entertain Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, where there’s a 7.45 start. 

GOLF

For the second year running, Gavin Moynihan has just clung on for a European Tour card at Q-School.

The Dubliner had looked set to finish comfortably within the crucial top-25 after six-rounds at Tarragona.

But two bogeys in the final four holes of his final round left Moynihan with a share of 20th and sweating on final placings.

Moynihan ended the week just inside the cut-off point, and just a shot clear of Ardglass native Cormac Sharvin, who just misses out on a card.

BOXING

Two Irish boxers are looking to secure medals at the EU Championships in Spain this afternoon.

First up, Antrim’s Kurt Walker takes on Jaroslaw Iwanow (PR: Yarro-Slav Eev-Ah-Nov) in the bantamweight quarter finals.

While Laois middleweight Michael Nevin faces England’s Carl Fail in their quarter final.

Wins for either Nevin or Walker will see them secure at least a bronze.

GAELIC GAMES

The Gaelic Players Association are stongly against the proposed rule change surrounding the handpass in football.

A limit to three consecutive handpasses is among five potential rule changes to be discussed by the GAA’s Central Council this weekend.

If approved, the alterations will be trialled in the pre-season provincial competitions, and the Allianz Leagues.

The GPA are also strongly against the proposed changes to the kickout rule, and that pertaining to sideline kicks.

The Players’ Association have backed the introduction of a sin bin period for a black card, and a widening of the rule surrounding the mark.

RACING

Last year’s winner, Alpha Des Obeaux under Dingle’s Jack Kennedy was unable repeat the feat in today’s running of the Clonmel Oil Chase.

The Willie Mullins-trained Kemboy made an impressive seasonal debut to land the Grade 2 race under Paul Townend.

He picked-up nicely from the second last and ran on to the line three lengths ahead of last year’s winner.

Willie Mullins says Kemboy is now likely to be targeted at the Ladbrokes Trophy in Newbury (fomerly the Hennessy Chase) in just over a fortnight’s time – a race won by Mullins and Townend last year with Total Recall…