Sport

Schmidt elevates Leinster playmaker for England clash

Joe Schmidt has backed rookie playmaker Ross Byrne to seize his World Cup chance in Saturday's clash with England at Twickenham.

The game can be seen live on BeIn Sports from 11.30pm AEDT on Saturday.

Leinster star Byrne will make his full Test debut and win just his third cap this weekend, with Ireland not risking Johnny Sexton after Joey Carbery's ankle injury.

Carbery could well miss the World Cup after damaging ankle ligaments in the 29-10 victory over Italy in Dublin on August 10.

Byrne and replacement Jack Carty can now make their case for World Cup selection at Twickenham, with head coach Schmidt assessing all his fly-half options.

"Ross has trained really well and it's not his debut, he's had time with us before, so we've got a lot of confidence in him anyway and I think he built his way through the season," said Schmidt.

Joe Schmidt has selected a strong team to face England at Twickenham.

Joe Schmidt has selected a strong team to face England at Twickenham.

"I thought he was maybe not as impressive as Jack early in the season, and I think those two have become really important to us.

"Joey has done well this week. Johnny, he's fine, but he missed a bit of time with his thumb, so he's a little bit behind and we know how well he plays for us. We don't feel that he needs a lot of time with the experience that he's got.

"So, for us, the guys that need the time are probably Ross and Jack and they've got the opportunity to do that this weekend, that they'll share a bit of time, I'd say, in the middle."

Frontline fly-half Sexton has been recovering from a thumb sprain, and Carbery's ankle injury has whittled down Ireland's playmaking options for their World Cup warm-up encounters.

Schmidt admitted Byrne and Carty's stock has risen markedly in the wake of Carbery's ankle blow.

"They were always really important because it is such a specialist position, but they probably wouldn't have had this opportunity as much," said Schmidt.

"Joey, especially on the back of his 50 minutes against Italy, I thought he was as good as I've seen him. "I thought he controlled the game really well. He's always a threat individually running and carrying the ball, but I just thought his control of the game was very, very good.

"So, for him, the frustration is not being able to get that opportunity to continue that. It's probably a frustration for us as well, but it's somebody else's opportunity and I know that Ross has trained well this week and is very, very motivated to do the job for us on Saturday."

Joe Carbery is ferried from the field in tears after injuring his ankle in the World Cup warm-up clash with Italy in Dublin.

Joe Carbery is ferried from the field in tears after injuring his ankle in the World Cup warm-up clash with Italy in Dublin.

Asked if Byrne is a more direct replacement for Sexton in style terms, Schmidt continued: "A little bit, that's probably a fair observation.

"I think Ross' ability to control the game, it's one of the things that was defining between Joey and him at Leinster, probably in that Ross ran the game and Joey ran really well individually. But I think it's also something that comes with a rhythm and game time.

"Jack, whenever he came off the bench for us in the Six Nations, I thought he did a super job. "So we have a lot of confidence in Jack being able to control the game and we do think he can bring a bit of a change up off the bench. "Either way, I think they'll both get a bit of game time on Saturday to demonstrate what they can bring to the game."

IRELAND TEAM TO FACE ENGLAND: R Kearney, J Larmour, G Ringrose (all Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), R Byrne (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Kleyn, P O'Mahony (both Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), J McGrath (Ulster), A Porter, D Toner (both Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), L McGrath (Leinster), J Carty (Connacht), A Conway (Munster).

Tipperary hurlers crush Cats in All Ireland decider

Tipperary are All Ireland hurling champions for the 28th time after a comprehensive win over a 14-man Kilkenny side in the rain-soaked final at Croke Park.

The Cats led by five points after 21 minutes but a well-timed goal and a controversial sending off swung momentum towards Tipperary who went on to claim their third title of the decade.

Brian Cody's men had the better of a scrappy opening period but a goal from Niall O’Meara kickstarted Tipp’s revival. Then, just before half-time, former Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan was dismissed for a high challenge on Tipperary’s corner-back Cathal Barrett.

Niall O’Meara celebrates after scoring one of Tipperary’s three goals in the All Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Niall O’Meara celebrates after scoring one of Tipperary’s three goals in the All Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tipperary led by a point at the interval, 1-09 to 0-11 but, like their old rivals have so often done to them, they came storming out in the third quarter.

Captain Seamus Callanan and John 'Bubbles' O’Dwyer, heroes of the 2016 win against the Cats but ineffective until that point, struck 1-01 apiece to send Tipp streaking eight clear by the 42nd minute.

Kilkenny needed goals after that but Tipperary used the extra man to good effect, Ronan Maher superb in restricting Colin Fennelly to a single point on the day and, though TJ Reid led the fight to the end, Tipp’s substitutes again all got in on the scoring spree to close it out comfortably by 14 points.

Also Read: Aussie Irish women dominate at GAA World Games

Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy said his players had answered their critics.

"People have questioned their character, and their ability to go into the trenches," the Tipperary manager told RTÉ Sport's Clare MacNamara after the game

"Today they gave all the answers inside the white lines, and ultimately it's not about me, it's about that wonderful group of players that have given me everything since the middle of November.

"Thankfully they get their just rewards today."

Veteran Kilkenny master coach Brian Cody said Tipperary were the superior side, but stressed that losing Hogan was an important moment in the game.

"Richie was sent off and that obviously changed the complexity of the game in a serious way," he told RTÉ Sport after the game.

When asked if it was a harsh call, Cody replied: "I wasn't expecting a red card, I was very close to it obviously. I can't definitively say, I'm not going to start making excuses or crying about things either.

"The only thing I will say is you need to be very, very certain to issue a red card. And there was a big discussion for quite a while between the referee and linesman. He went over, examining people and everything else.

"Obviously he wasn't too sure himself but you'd want to be very, very sure to issue a red card." 

The defeat completed a miserable day for Kilkenny after their Minor team was hammered by an impressive Galway outfit, 3-14 to 0-12.

Kyrgios fined after 'potato' jibe at Irish umpire

Australian tennis ace Nick Kyrgios has been slugged with a record fine after abusing Irish umpire Fergus Murphy, at one stage calling him ‘a potato’.

The controversial Australian lost his cool at the Southern Open in Cincinnati after losing the second set to Russia's Karen Khachanov.

"The worst f***ing ref ever, the worst ref in the game,” the 24-year-old shouted.

ALSO READ: Win a Sydney Swans jumper signed by Tadhg Kennelly

"I've never experienced anything like this in my life. It's a disgrace. It's only with you," the world No 27 told the umpire. "Why do I always have problems with this potato in the chair? He’s a spud.”

At the end of the match, which Kyrgios lost, he unleashed on Murphy again, saying: "You're a f***ing tool bro."

Fergus Murphy is one of the most experienced tennis umpires on the pro circuit.

Fergus Murphy is one of the most experienced tennis umpires on the pro circuit.

He refused to shake hands with the official and spat in his direction.

The ATP's response has been swift, outlining nine offences the 24-year-old committed, ranging from ball abuse to five counts of unsportsmanlike conduct. Four of those had a US$20,000 tariff attached to them, while his verbal abuse also cost him the same amount.

The ATP added that investigations remained ongoing to see if "additional action is warranted under the Player Major Offense section of the code" and that further fines or a suspension remained an option.

Kyrgios’ list of offences were:

  • Ball Abuse (Warning)

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct (Point Penalty) – US$ 20,000 fine

  • Leaving the Court – US$ 3,000 fine

  • Audible Obscenity – US$ 5,000 fine

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct – US$ 5,000 fine

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct – US$ 20,000 fine

  • Verbal Abuse – US$ 20,000 fine

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct – US$ 20,000 fine and

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct – US$ 20,000 fine

It is not the first time Kyrgios has clashed with the experienced Irish umpire.

ALSO READ: Irish ‘Messi’ Wes Hoolahan signs up for A-League

He picked up more than £13,000 in fines in one day at Queen's Club in England earlier this year, with several flash points across two matches.

Murphy was again in the firing line, with the line-calling the subject of Kyrgios' ire, and the Australian bizarrely mocked the Irish official's hat.

Expat women on top of the GAA world

Australasia's Irish-born women emerged triumphant in both the ladies football and camogie contests at the recent GAA World Games.

Former Kerry All-Star Caroline Kelly, who captained the women’s football team, and camogie leader Sam McKillen of Antrim got to lift the tophies in Croke Park after their teams steamed through their tournaments proving too good for all their competitors.

Caroline Kelly, who plays with Brisbane Souths, told The Irish Echo: "It was really special. It's only starting to sink in now because the week was so quick that it was only afterwards we realised, 'that was a really special occasion and really special week to be part of'.

“Ourselves and Parnells had a really really tough battle in the final and we were so lucky just to come out on the right side of it in the end."

Kelly’s team clinched victory in the most dramatic fashion.

Australasia’s Irish-born women’s captain Caroline Kelly lifts the trophy after her team won the GAA World Games title at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Australasia’s Irish-born women’s captain Caroline Kelly lifts the trophy after her team won the GAA World Games title at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Having trailed for the entire match to Parnell's of London, Kelly stormed through to pass to Tricia Melanaphy for the final score which clinched victory: 2-7 to 1-9.

"I didn't quite realise how little time was left. I knew time was ticking and we had to attack but I don't think I realised that was going to be the last kick of the game, that was our last chance.

"It was pure joy (at the final whistle),” Kelly said.

“Those games are always the better ones to win, those dramatic matches where you just scrape it at the end, just the feeling after it is like nothing else.

"When I left and went to Australia, I thought the big games were behind me. I certainly never thought I would be in Croke Park again never mind climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand.

"What I found lovely about the whole competition was all our families were there to see us. When we're used to playing in Australia, we don't always have that and I think most of the players, after we celebrated with each other, we all went to our families and just to have them share in our joy was really special."

The camogie final was special for the McKillen family. Thirty years on from when Paul McKillen played in an All-Ireland hurling final for Antrim, he watched his daughter Sam become a champion in Croke Park.

Sam McKillen lifts the trophy after leading the Australasian Irish-born women to victory at the GAA’s World Games competition at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sam McKillen lifts the trophy after leading the Australasian Irish-born women to victory at the GAA’s World Games competition at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sam, of Cormac McAnallens club in Sydney, told The Irish Echo: "Of course he was proud. He's still proud, he's going round the town telling everyone, 'this girls's a world champion'.

"It was nice bringing back that memory and him seeing me win, he's ecstatic. He can't stop talking about it. The biggest thing about it all for me was I played in Croke Park, we won and I had my family there watching me. What else would you want?

"It was great to bring the cup back to Sydney. I don't think I'll ever get to climb the steps of Croke Park again but it was class. Going to Croke Park, playing in front of your family and friends, playing with those girls especially, the talent is unreal. The girls I'm playing with out there are outstanding players. The feeling is unexplainable."

McKillen and her team steamed through the competition winning many of their matches by big scores, beating Middle East by 1-10 to 1-4 in the final.

"Middle East were a great team,” McKillen said.

“The score didn't tell the full story of that game, they put it up to us. I was still fighting for every last ball like it meant everything. Even if we were ahead by a couple of points, it felt like we were behind. We did win it comfortably but credit to them as well."

Australasia also took the best and fairest in two codes, Karen Jones took the Irish-born camogie honour while Lauren Saunders was honoured in ‘native-born’ women’s football.

Australasia were also runners-up in three more codes.

The ‘native-born’ women lost out 0-6 to 1-7 to New York's Liberty Ladies. The Irish-born footballers went down 1-9 to 3-9 to Middle East. The Irish-born hurlers also lost to Middle East by 3-7 to 2-15. The ‘native-born’ footballers were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by New York Freedom.

Sydney Swans Giveaway: Win a signed guernsey, match tickets

Win a signed Sydney Swans guernsey signed by Irish stars Tadhg Kennelly and Colin O’Riordan.

The Irish Echo, in association with the Sydney Swans, gives you the chance to win a special Irish gift pack including a signed guernsey and cap plus four tickets to the Swans final game of the season against St Kilda on Saturday, August 24.

Tadhg Kennelly is a club legend after becoming the first Irishman to win an AFL premiership with ‘the Bloods’ in 2005. Now assistant coach at the club, Kennelly also won an All Ireland Senior Football winners medal with his native county in 2009. He was recently included in our Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

Colin O’Riordan has cemented his spot in the Swans first XVIII as a dashing defender this season. He recently signed a contract extension with the club which will keep him in Sydney until at least 2021.

To be in with a chance, just complete the form below and answer our two questions. Winners will be notified by phone on Tuesday next, August 20.

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Name *
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Wes Hoolahan to play A-League football for Jets

Wes Hoolahan has been dubbed ‘the Irish Messi’ by his new club.

Wes Hoolahan has been dubbed ‘the Irish Messi’ by his new club.

Gifted Irish football star Wes Hoolahan has signed a one year deal with Newcastle Jets after personal terms were agreed with the A-League club this week.

The 37-year-old said he was happy to have signed on to play for the Jets.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play abroad and I’m delighted that I’ll be playing in Newcastle this season,” Hoolahan said.

“There are some quality players throughout the league and I’m looking forward to testing myself in a new environment.

“I’m really excited to be in Australia, it’s an entirely new challenge for me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jets boss, Ernie Merrick was pleased to have secured the signature of the experienced midfielder.

“Wes is a great get for us, he’s keen to come out and play in the Hyundai A-League and we’re confident he can bring a lot to the side,” Merrick said.

“He’s an attacking-minded midfielder who will fit seamlessly into the style of football we like to play, his passing range is superb and he’s great with the ball at his feet.

“Wes’ experience will be invaluable to us, from all reports he’s a model professional and the type of player that our younger guys will learn a lot from.”

Hoolahan will wear the number 8 in Newcastle.

The playmaker heads Down Under after a 10-game spell in the Championship with West Bromwich Albion last season, and via a recent pre-season training stint with League Two's Cambridge United.

Former Republic of Ireland international Hoolahan made a name for himself during a 10-year period at Norwich, where he scored 54 goals and made 78 assists in 351 appearances, including four seasons in the English Premier League.

The Shelbourne junior has gathered 43 caps and three goals for his nation - scoring a memorable goal against Sweden at Euro 2016 in France.

He joins Perth Glory’s Andy Keogh and Brisbane Roar’s irish duo of Roy O’Donovan and Jay O’Shea as the A-League’s Irish cohort.

Video: GWS Giants Irish rookie's amazing goal

GWS Giants Irish recruit Callum Brown has described his first season playing Aussie Rules as ‘brilliant’.

The former Derry U20 starlet was recruited as a rookie by the Sydney outfit ahead of the current season becoming their first ever Irish rookie recruit.

He’s impressed the club in his first season playing the game, averaging more than ten possessions in the NEAFL and even scoring five goals.

"It's been brilliant so far," Brown said.

The Limavady man was key in his county reaching the All-Ireland U20 football semi-finals last summer.

It was the Giants' Irish defensive coach Nick Walsh who spotted his talent when Brown impressed with his pace and strong ability under the high ball when Derry triumphed over Walsh's native Cavan.

"He texted me and said: 'I'm from the GWS Giants, we've been watching you for at least a year now. We think you have potential'.

"It was a shock, from Australia to come and say we want to have a look at you, we want you to come out in the summer as well."

The 18-year-old had already proved himself a versatile sportsman as he had also been on the books of Linfield FC.

Now getting to grips with a new code, he is finding his feet as a defender.

"I started off as forward but they wanted me to learn the game more down in the halfback position, they want me to be more of a running role.

"At the minute I've been playing back the last couple of weeks, been really picking up the game there and improving my skills in that area.

"I'm starting to get the hang of it now as well, even calling the shots during games, telling the boys where to go, what positions to sit in. So far they're very pleased with me.”

Brown is one of six fresh Irish players on AFL lists this year with James Madden at Brisbane Lions, Anton Tohill and Mark Keane at Collingwood, Red Óg Murphy at North Melbourne and Stefan Okunbor at Geelong.

Callum Brown says he is confident of breaking into the senior side.

Callum Brown says he is confident of breaking into the senior side.

"I love how they're able to come over as well, in the same position as I am. It's brilliant how they bring other boys over here so they can experience what it's like to play professional sport. Even for myself just the first irish man to come across and play for GWS, it's pretty exciting."

While he is the first GAA player to be signed as a rookie into the Giants set-up, he is not the first Irish player to wear the orange and grey. Setanta O'hAilpin played eight matches for the Giants in 2012/13.

Also, the current GWS defender Aidan Corr was born in Tyrone and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of three.

"[Aidan] tries to say he’s the first Irish Giants player but I just don't take him on, don't take him on at all."

Brown hopes to emulate Irish players who have made their AFL breakthroughs in recent seasons.

"The position they're in right now is brilliant. Since they've been here a couple of years, they know the whole game plan and how it works and the system. For myself being new to the sport, it's a bit harder to get into it but watching them play, I can progress my skills and just think: ‘If they can do it, then I can do it as well’."

Brown is confident of making a similar breakthrough and is even cheeky enough to suggest that he will take the place of club veteran and legendary defender Heath Shaw in the senior team.

"If I stick to how I'm going now, I could possibly take Shawie's place as well. He thinks I won't take it but I one hundred per cent will take it."

That might have to wait until the 2020 season but the GWS Giants are almost certain to play finals footy in both the AFL and NEAFL competitions.

Kennelly defends AFL recruitment of young Irish stars

Sydney Swans coach Tadhg Kennelly says he understands the frustration of some GAA fans who see talented young players abandon Ireland for a crack at Aussie Rules.

But the popular Kerryman defends the pathway as a great opportunity to play professional sport.

Two years ago Kennelly was criticised in the Irish media by his former Kerry team-mate Tomás Ó Sé for his part in taking top prospects away from GAA in his role then as AFL Talent Coordinator.

“I see both sides of the argument,” the now 38-year-old said in a revealing interview with the Irish Echo.

“I understand if I was a young man at home in Kerry and I’m watching Mark O’Connor go and play for Geelong.

“I wouldn’t be happy. It would be tough to watch because that’s what you bleed at home, you bleed Kerry football and you don’t want to see your best talent going.

“But I also see the other side of the argument. He’s a young man getting an opportunity to play professional football, getting to challenge himself in a game he knows nothing about and an opportunity to put it up against people in a game that you don’t know. I understand both sides of the argument. Which one’s right? Who knows?”

Kennelly is in a unique position of having reached the pinnacle of both games: in 2005 with the Sydney Swans and in 2009 with Kerry.

“I’ve been able to live both of them, going back to play football at home and getting to play as a professional here with the Swans,” he said.

“It’s a tough one and I see both sides of the argument. But I also understand there’s been close to 70 Irish players that have come out here. There’s only a handful of us who have played over 150 games of AFL football, the majority go back.

“That’s the first thing I say to players or anyone who talks to me about coming out here. It’s f**king hard and it’s a hard thing to do because you’re playing a game you knew nothing about, you haven’t been able to grow up with it, you don’t understand it and it’s tough. The majority of players go back and they go back better Gaelic footballers because they have lived in an environment of being a professional for a couple of years.”

In 2009, Tadhg Kennelly became the first irishman to win both an AFL Premiership and an All Ireland Championship.

In 2009, Tadhg Kennelly became the first irishman to win both an AFL Premiership and an All Ireland Championship.

Kennelly is also a veteran of International Rules, having played in six series. While he is a fan of the concept, he is not confident that the hybrid code can find a way forward.

“It’s difficult, it’s hard and I understand the demands on both codes as far as the GAA and AFL are concerned,” he said.

“There’s a lot going on, a lot on their plates. It’s hard to get momentum up because it’s a year, two years between games and it’s hard to get the momentum going.

“I’m a huge fan of it, it’s an opporunity for you to represent your country which both codes don’t get and you talk to any player who’s played in it, they absolutely love the experience and love playing for their country. I hope it does continue because it’s an opportunity to represent your country.”

Having spent his entire AFL career at the Sydney Swans, Kennelly returned to Sydney Cricket Ground two years ago and is now defensive coach.

He is also a member of the club’s Hall Of Fame having played 197 games for the ‘bloods’ becoming the first Irishman to win an AFL premiership in 2005.

In the extensive interview, Kennelly also revealed that if Kerry had not won the 2009 Championship, he may have stayed on in Ireland.

Adare Manor to host 2026 Ryder Cup

Ireland has ridden the crest of The Open wave to host the Ryder Cup for the first time in 20 years.

Ryder Cup bosses have admitted the overwhelming success of the major's return to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland last week tipped the scales for Adare Manor to stage the biennial challenge in 2026.

The Government of Ireland agreed a deal with Ryder Cup chiefs for the Limerick course to become Ireland's first host venue since the K Club in 2006.

European Ryder Cup director Guy Kinnings admitted there were precious few hesitations in selecting Adare Manor.

"This is a world-class venue, both in terms of the golf course and the wider resort facilities," said Kinnings.

"Months of careful negotiation behind the scenes have seen us arrive at this point and we could not be happier to be able to take golf's greatest team contest back to Ireland.

Adare Manor owner JP McManus (right) and general manager Colm Hannon.

Adare Manor owner JP McManus (right) and general manager Colm Hannon.

"Equally in receipt of our appreciation are Adare Manor owners JP and Noreen McManus and their entire team at the magnificent County Limerick venue. JP has shown unwavering support for golf and the European Tour over many years and we are delighted that Adare Manor will be the venue to showcase the next chapter in Ireland's Ryder Cup story in seven years' time.

"Aside from having provided three captains over the past four editions, in addition to world-class talent such as Rory McIlroy, Irish players such as the late Christy O'Connor Jnr, Philip Walton, Eamonn Darcy, Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley are intrinsically linked with providing Europe's winning moments over the years.

"Added to that the fact that Irish golf fans are rightly recognised as some of the most knowledgeable and passionate in the world, as was shown during Shane Lowry's emotional Open Championship triumph at Royal Portrush on Sunday, there was no question in our minds that the time was right."

Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush last week hosted The Open for the first time in 68 years, and the tournament's overwhelming success has handed the island of Ireland an immediate boost.

The Adare Manor resort was revamped in 2014 at a cost of €70 million.

The Adare Manor resort was revamped in 2014 at a cost of €70 million.

That feel-good factor was hoisted by home favourite Shane Lowry sweeping his maiden major title, and now Irish golf has received another shot in the arm.

Irish racehorse owner JP McManus bought Adare Manor in December 2014, and revamped the entire resort at a cost of a reported €70 million.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed both a sporting and economic boost for Ireland.

"I am delighted that Ireland will be the host of The Ryder Cup in 2026," said Varadkar.

"It is great news for Ireland, and for County Limerick and the west of Ireland in particular. This news comes at the end of an historic week for golf on the island of Ireland, following the hugely successful hosting of the Open Championship by Royal Portrush Golf Club, and the historic victory by one of Ireland's most popular sporting heroes, Shane Lowry.

"Shane's victory is one of many great achievements by Irish golfers, not just in Major Championships but also in The Ryder Cup. Over the years, Irish captains and Irish players have played a huge role in the success of the European team.

"I am sure that when The Ryder Cup comes to Adare, we will see many more great sporting memories created, and great sporting friendships forged.

"It will be a fantastic occasion for everyone on the island of Ireland, and for the many visitors from both sides of the Atlantic who can look forward to another great Irish welcome."

Irish joy at Royal Portrush as Lowry wins Open

Shane Lowry has won his first Major in front of a delirious Irish crowd at Royal Portrush.

The 32-year-old was never headed in the final round at the Antrim links course, eventually winning by six shots to claim the $2.76 million first prize.

He has become only the fifth Irish winner of the Open after Fred Daly, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.

The win caps a fantastic year for the Offaly-man who was ranked 90 in the world 12 months ago.

After changing caddie, Lowry won in Abu Dhabi in January and finished joint eighth at the US PGA in May. His ranking rose to 33 before his Portrush heroics.

At the 2016 US Open in Oakmont he led by four heading into the final round only to produce a trio of three-putts on the back nine to hand victory to Dustin Johnson.

But there was no such collapse at the first British Open to be held in Ireland in 68 years.

Lowry celebrated his win with wife Wendy, daughter Iris and dad Brendan, a one-time Gaelic football champion, and mum Bridget.

Two years ago, he said becoming a father had been a game changer.

“I don’t know what it is. Maybe when you have a child, it makes a difference,” Shane said in 2017. “It is probably no coincidence that since Iris was born, my golf has been quite good. It puts life into perspective.”

Shane Lowry celebrates his British Open success.

Shane Lowry celebrates his British Open success.

Previous Irish Major Winners

2010 US OPEN - Graeme McDowell

With Dustin Johnson three clear at Pebble Beach after 54 holes it did not look good for McDowell. But Johnson had an early triple and double bogey, crashed to an 82 and world number 37 McDowell held his nerve. "Careers are defined by major championships and my career's off and running today," he said.

2011 US OPEN - Rory McIlroy

Two months after a closing 80 when four ahead at the Masters, McIlroy started at Congressional with a 65. From three in front he went six clear with a 66, then eight ahead with a 68, setting 36-hole and 54-hole records. "At Augusta it was all a bit new to me. I have a clear mind now," the 22-year-old said after completing an eight-shot win.

2011 OPEN - Darren Clarke

English amateur Tom Lewis and 2003 Sandwich runner-up Thomas Bjorn led after opening with 65s, but at halfway it was Clarke and American Lucas Glover out in front. A Saturday 69, one of only three sub-70 scores in the wind and rain, left Clarke one ahead and at the 20th attempt he became Open champion. "The Open is the biggest and best tournament in the world. Nineteen times I've failed, now I've won - it's a dream come true," he said.

2012 US PGA - Rory McIlroy

Sweden's Carl Pettersson was the surprise leader after an opening 66 and shared the halfway lead with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, but McIlroy surged clear with his second 67 of the week in the weather-delayed third round. A closing 66 gave the 23-year-old a second major title and a second eight-shot winning margin. "I'm speechless," McIlroy said. "It has been an incredible week. I had a good feeling about it at the start but I never imagined it would turn out like this."

2014 OPEN - Rory McIlroy

McIlroy led from start to finish at Hoylake, opening with back-to-back rounds of 66 to open up a four-shot lead at halfway. In anticipation of bad weather on Saturday, a two-tee start was used for the first time in championship history and McIlroy - who was six shots clear - was giving his post-round press conference when torrential rain began falling. A closing 71 gave McIlroy a two-shot win and third major title. "It feels incredible," McIlroy said. "To win three legs of the Grand Slam at 25 is a pretty big achievement."

2014 US PGA - Rory McIlroy

Rounds of 66 and 67 at Valhalla gave McIlroy a one-shot lead at halfway and a third-round 67 maintained his slender advantage over Austria's Bernd Wiesberger. Torrential rain in the final round forced a lengthy delay and meant a dramatic finale in near-darkness as Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler stood aside on the 18th to allow McIlroy to tee off and make the par required to win by a shot. "I didn't think in my wildest dreams I would have a summer like this," McIlroy said.



Shane Lowry during the rain-soaked final round at Royal Portrush.

Shane Lowry during the rain-soaked final round at Royal Portrush.



Irish Swan's career takes flight with new contract

Sydney Swans Irish defender Colin O’Riordan has been given a major vote of confidence by his club after accepting a two-year contract extension.

The new deal will see him remain in red and white until at least the end of 2021.

Colin O’Riordan has signed a new contract with the Sydney Swans. Picture: Sydney Swans

Colin O’Riordan has signed a new contract with the Sydney Swans. Picture: Sydney Swans

Originally from Tipperary, O’Riordan joined the Swans as an international rookie in 2015, following in the footsteps of Kerrymen Tadhg Kennelly and Tommy Walsh.

A star Gaelic footballer and hurler as a teenager, O’Riordan captained Tipperary to the Munster U21 football title in 2015 before deciding to try his luck at Aussie Rules.

He made a seamless transition to the Australian game, earning NEAFL Team of the Year honours in his first season on Sydney’s list in 2016.

In Round 17, 2018, O’Riordan’s hard work and thriving NEAFL form were rewarded when he was called up for his AFL debut in a six-point win against North Melbourne.

He also captained the Swans NEAFL side in the grand final loss to Southport last year.

After breaking back into the senior team in Round 8 this year, the 23-year-old has not looked back, playing nine games in a row and providing a wealth of drive from the backline. He also scored his first AFL goal against Conor McKenna’s Essendon.

Colin O’Riordan pictured in 2015 when he captained Tipperary to the Munster U21 Gaelic football title. Picture: Sportsfile

Colin O’Riordan pictured in 2015 when he captained Tipperary to the Munster U21 Gaelic football title. Picture: Sportsfile

Swans Head of Football Charlie Gardiner says O’Riordan’s new contract is a great reward for tireless effort.
“From the moment Colin walked into the club he had a real determination and desire to become a consistent AFL footballer,” Gardiner told the Sydney Swans website.

“Colin’s such a driven and competitive person who works incredibly hard to improve each year. He’s gone to another level again this year and has emerged to become an important member of the team.

“We’re excited he’s joined a number of our emerging youngsters in re-signing, and we look forward to seeing what Colin can produce for the remainder of the season and in years to come.”

Watch O’Riordan’s press conference here.

O’Riordan joins Callum Sinclair, Jordan Dawson, Nick Blakey, James Rowbottom, Justin McInerney and Harry Reynolds, as well as coach John Longmire, in recommitting to Sydney in 2019.

GAA calls time out on International Rules, Wild Geese game

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

There will no international rules series or Wild Geese Trophy hurling match in 2019, the Irish Echo has learned.

Since the last international rules series in 2017, there had been discussions about bringing the series or at least one of the test matches to America as the AFL looks to promote their game stateside.

But the Irish Echo understands that the GAA has reservations about taking the hybrid code to the US nominating the scale and style of the chosen venues.

Alan Milton, GAA Director of Communications, told The Irish Echo: "The GAA continues to work with the AFL on a five year plan for the International Rules Series. A number of issues, primarily relating to venues, meant it was not possible to stage the series this year.”

The AFL has made it clear that the decision to postpone the series was not theirs.

An AFL spokesperson told The Irish Echo: "The GAA has communicated to the AFL they do not plan to play an International Rules Series this year. We are yet to have a detailed discussion as to what the result of the GAA’s decision means for the AFL and its players."

The last international rules series took place in 2017 when GAA stars travelled to Australia but lost a tough series to their hosts. Australia took the first test in Adelaide by ten points and although the second test in Perth was closer, it still went to the home team, this time by three.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

The series has been held every two years on average since its revival in 1998 but there was talk of not revisiting it after a bruising series in 2006 although the series returned in 2008 regardless.

Since that time, the number of Irish players - both male and female - playing Aussie Rules has soared. This weekend, seven Irish players will line out for their AFL clubs: Conor Nash and Conor Glass (Hawthorn), Conor McKenna (Essendon), Colin O’Riordan (Sydney Swans), Mark O’Connor and Zach Tuohy (Geelong) and Pearce Hanley (God Coast Suns).

Meanwhile the apparent financial failure of the Wild Geese Trophy event in Sydney last November appears to have influenced the decision to put that concept on the back burner.

The inaugural Wild Geese trophy match took place at Spotless Stadium, Sydney last November as part of the Sydney irish Festival. Then reigning All-Ireland champions Galway came back from fourteen points down to draw the match with league winners Kilkenny and claimed victory in a 65 yard free-taking contest.

The Wild Geese trophy match was enjoyed by fans in Sydney but the hurling was supposed to be a feature of a two day Sydney Irish Festival that should have also boasted music from Damien Dempsey, Mary Black, Lunasa and Saint Sister. However just five days before the event, it was announced there would be no music stars and the festival was cut to one day.

The debacle fed into a legal case being brought against the GAA by cide brand Bulmers (Magners in Australia).

Many took to social media and other outlets to complain about the poor organisation of the event, late notice, queues at bars and lack of children's entertainment.

Although the Wild Geese Trophy was supposed to have a future, it is understood to have been loss-making prompting the GAA to look at the impact it had on other fixtures.

"The GAA President has also established a Fixture Review Committee to examine the Association's various competition structures,” Alan Milton told the Irish Echo.

“In that context it was deemed prudent not to proceed with the Wild Geese competition this year but the staging of competitions such as this will form part of that review process."

Six new Irish recruits for AFLW

Australia-born Tipperary GAA star Orla O’Dwyer has signed for the Brisbane Lions in AFLW.

Australia-born Tipperary GAA star Orla O’Dwyer has signed for the Brisbane Lions in AFLW.

Ailish Considine showed the massive part Irish women can play in the AFLW when she was instrumental in her Adelaide Crows team emerging triumphant in the Grand Final in April and several AFLW clubs have looked to Ireland to improve their squads for next season.

Tipperary dual star Orla O’Dwyer has joined Brisbane Lions. Galway star Mairead Seoighe has penned a deal with North Melbourne. Fremantle have signed Aine Tighe of Leitrim and Kate Flood of Louth while Mayo sisters Niamh and Grace Kelly have moved from the West coast of Ireland to the West Coast of Australia by joining West Coast Eagles.

All five Irish women who competed last season have had their contracts renewed so there are now 11 Irish women on AFLW lists.

It will be a return to Australia for Orla O’Dwyer who was born and spent some of her childhood here.

O’Dwyer, who is also Tipperary camogie captain told The Irish Echo: “I’m really excited about joining the Brisbane Lions. To now have the opportunity to play a new sport like AFLW in a new country is such an experience in itself. I know that I will have a lot to learn and adjust to but I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead and pushing myself and being involved in a professional setup.”

She is the Brisbane Lions first Irish signing, something she says makes her feel extremely privileged.

“It’s great that they have given me this amazing opportunity and all the staff, background team and players have been so welcoming and helpful which makes me feel more comfortable about the move in October.”

Other clubs were chasing O’Dwyer’s signature but she decided Brisbane was to be the club for her.

Ailish Considine made history in April when she became the first Irish woman to win an AFLW Premiership with the Adelaide Crows.

Ailish Considine made history in April when she became the first Irish woman to win an AFLW Premiership with the Adelaide Crows.

“Initially, I had a couple of interviews with AFLW clubs but Brisbane Lions just stood out. They had a great knowledge of my style of play with camogie and ladies football and a plan of how I would benefit the team.

“They have excellent players and I’m excited to meet them all and play with them. Also, they offered me a contract in a matter of hours after the interview which showed me that they knew what they were about, and I’m delighted with my decision. I know Brisbane has a large Irish population, and I am hoping they will get behind me.

“I was born in Australia and my parents lived there for a few years in the late 90s and some of their friends from that time are now living in Brisbane. I hope to catch up with a few when I get over.”

O’Dwyer has been inspired by the success of the other Irish players in the AFLW, particularly Cora Staunton.

“I watched with great interest a documentary about Cora Staunton, it documented her move to the AFLW. She has been a great role model for women’s sport in Ireland,” she said.

Staunton has suffered a setback in her bid to continue her stellar career. The 37-year-old broke her leg while playing in the AFL Sydney Premier Division Women’s competition for the UNSW Bulldogs.

Staunton was the first international player to be drafted into the AFLW in 2017, clearing a path for many Irish girls to follow. She has scored 11 goals in 14 games for the Giants. She had already been invited back by the Giants to play in her third AFLW season.

Cora was optimistic in a social media post that showed a picture of her laid up in a hospital bed, saying: “Just want to thank everyone for all the support (calls messages etc) and help. I will be forever grateful to all my @gwsgiants family & unswbulldogs for everything ye have done for me. Sport can be cruel sometimes but hopefully this is only another challenge for me.”

Giants AFLW head coach Alan McConnell told The Irish Echo: “It was a shocking injury that Cora suffered, but as always she’s taken it head on as another challenge.

“Our medical team has been working closely with Cora in recent days to ensure she has the best care available to be able to get her rehabilitation

under way. There’s been a huge amount of support sent Cora’s way and all of us at the Giants are very grateful for the love that’s been shown.”

As the first Irish import, Staunton is credited with inspiring other clubs to look to Ireland.

On this, Cora told The Irish Echo during the past season: “People talk about it being me [that inspired the Irish influx of players] and I’d say next year it will double or treble with four more teams coming into the competition. In part it’s to me but in bigger part it’s to the Giants and in even bigger part it’s probably to Al [McConnell, Giants AFLW head coach].

“I’ve been extremely, extremely lucky. I’ve played inter-county senior football for 24 years, since I was 13. I’ve won everything that there is to be won in the game. I’ve been lucky with injuries. I’ve been lucky that my body has let me keep playing.”

Expat rugby star McDonald to line up against Ireland

Dundalk-born Michael McDonald is a rising star of Australian rugby.

Dundalk-born Michael McDonald is a rising star of Australian rugby.

Irish-born scrum-half Michael McDonald is to line up against the country of his birth at the Under 20s Rugby World Championship in Argentina tonight Australian-time.

McDonald and his Junior Wallabies have just come through an impressive Oceanic Championship campaign in which they won all their matches and even produced a big win over New Zealand. But Ireland are also in form after completing a Grand Slam earlier this year. The two meet in Pool B.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a tough campaign especially with a pool like ours having Ireland, Italy and England in our first three games but really looking forward to it,” McDonald told The Irish Echo. “The team’s prepped really well.”

The 19-year-old moved from Louth to Australia at the age of 13.

“I can’t wait [to play Ireland]: really, really top opposition obviously coming off a really good Six Nations that they’ve just won but really looking forward to it, can’t wait to have a good game against them and the whole team is looking forward to that challenge. It’s such a good team to come up against in the early pool stages.”

Asked about any divided loyalties, the former Dundalk RFC man is focused on the job in hand.

“The biggest focus for me is I’m representing Australia with this team and I’ve got a job to do within the team. Obviously everyone in this team wants the same outcome, every individual’s got a job to do for the team and hopefully it’s successful.”

Despite playing in the green and gold of his adoptive home, McDonald says he gets plenty of support from his family and friends in Ireland.

“Of course, they’ll always be super proud of me wherever I go. It will be a tough one for my grandmother to get over,” he laughs.

“The support from back home has been awesome and my whole family has been really behind me.”

Australia came through a strong Oceanic Championship campaign in April and May. The Junior Wallabies won all three of their games against Japan, Fiji and the teenager stood out in their 24-0 beating of New Zealand.

McDonald even had the honour of captaining Australia against Fiji and he kicked 11 of the team’s 16 points.

“The Oceanic camp that we had proved to be very successful. Preparation has been really key for us but obviously there’s an end goal and that’s the World Cup so that’s our main focus,” he said. “I think any team at this World Cup could do it, they’re all top quality sides.”

McDonald plays his club rugby with Palmyra in Perth and is also a member of the Western Force squad.

Both sides are unbeaten heading into tonight’s clash. Kick-off 11.30pm AEST.

Gay Irish rugby star's letter to Israel Folau

Irish rugby star Lindsay Peat with her son Barra. Picture: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

Irish rugby star Lindsay Peat with her son Barra. Picture: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

A gay Irish rugby star has written to Israel Folau in an effort to explain to the former Wallaby the dangers of homophobia.

Lindsay Peat, an Irish rugby international, said she felt compelled to respond after Australian star posted that hell awaited homosexuals unless they repented.

Writing for The Sports Chronicle in Ireland, the 38-year-old said: “If I had two minutes with Israel Folau, I would say I’m Lindsay Peat – proud Dubliner, proud wife, proud mother, proud daughter, proud sister, proud rugby player.  

“Like you, I’ve had the honour to represent my country at the highest level in the game… But I’m gay.

“I don’t want special treatment.  I don’t need to sing from any altar that I’m gay I just want to be like everyone else because I am like everyone else. I live and I love. I let live and I let love.

“When you judge me, when you judge all of us, you make me fight. I will fight to not go back to that dark place that you will never understand.”

Peat has previously spoken of the homophobic abuse she suffered on the field saying she was called a “dirty dyke” in an All-Ireland final.

The 38-year-old is one of our most talented athletes having represented Ireland in soccer, basketball and rugby as well as winning an All-Ireland GAA football medal for Dublin.

But the mother-of-one said she went through a very dark period when she was younger and was struggling with her sexuality.

Israel Folau has been sacked by Rugby Australia but is considering legal action against his former employer.

Israel Folau has been sacked by Rugby Australia but is considering legal action against his former employer.

She suffered panic attacks, self-loathing, weight loss and drank to oblivion as she struggled with the prospect of coming out to friends and family.

The Dubliner said she even contemplated suicide thinking “it would be better not to be here because I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“The lying to everyone.  The lying TO MYSELF because, in the Ireland that I lived in at that time, it just wasn’t ok to be gay – you were judged,” she explained.

Peat who works in the HSE as a clerical officer is now happily married to Claire and the couple have a three-year-old son Barra.

Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia over the homophobic post he made on Instagram having been warned last year over a similar tweet.

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Folau, a devout Christian, has argued that he shouldn’t be punished for expressing his own religious beliefs and according to reports he may now sue for unfair dismissal based on religious grounds.

Peat says she feels “pity” that a player “in such a privileged position, getting paid for doing something he loves doing” chose to use his power to target gay people.

And Ireland rugby star had a positive message for anyone struggling that "better days are ahead."

“I can only imagine having the power and influence that someone like Israel Folau has and how I would use that to do good, to wrap my arms around those that are suffering and give them a bit of hope that there are better days ahead. 

“To tell them that life is for living and that it’s your own life – no one else’s. To tell them that the day you start living your life at the mercy of other people’s beliefs is the day you’ve rendered yours almost lost.

“You risk missing out on all those possible moments of feeling alive and the happiness that come with being yourself.”

You can read Lindsay Peat’s full letter here.