Sport

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.

Irish striker on path to Glory in Australia's A League

Family man: Andy Keogh pictured with wife Natalie and daughters Mia and Kaia.

Family man: Andy Keogh pictured with wife Natalie and daughters Mia and Kaia.

If the bookies are correct, Dubliner Andy Keogh will become only the second Irishman to claim an A League Premiership by the end of the month.

The talented Perth Glory striker has enjoyed a stellar season, helping his club to their first Premiers Plate, ending a 15 year silverware drought.

Along the way he’s scored 17 goals, making him the highest scorer in a single season in Glory’s A-League history.

Keogh told The Irish Echo: “I’m very proud. [Winning the Premier’s Plate] is long overdue but thoroughly deserved this year. Very happy, delighted to have played a part.”

Perth Glory have led the race all season, losing only two games on their way to claiming the plate with two rounds to spare after a 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets on April 14. Glory will next face Adelaide United for a place in the A League Grand Final.

Keogh, 32, joined Perth Glory in 2014 and although he went to play in Thailand a year later, he returned for a second spell with the club in 2016.

He has been Perth’s star striker since his arrival and this season, his most prolific to date, helped Tony Popovic’s team to the top of the table.

Andy Keogh in action for the Republic of Ireland against Sweden in 2013.

Andy Keogh in action for the Republic of Ireland against Sweden in 2013.

“I’m very happy with [my goalscoring record]”, he said. “I can’t complain with how the games have gone and the overall season. “Of course, we’ve come a long way this season and we don’t want to stop now. We want to take all the silverware and continue the good form.”

Keogh plied his trade with Leeds, Scunthorpe United, Wolves and Millwall and earned 30 caps for Republic of Ireland, scoring two international goals, before making the move to Perth where he had some family. While playing at Millwall, Keogh had a devastating striking partnership with Harry Kane who was on loan from Tottenham and is now England captain.

Keogh would become only the second Irish player to win an A League Grand Final after Liam Miller who claimed the honour with Brisbane Roar in 2014. Miller passed away from cancer last year at the age of 36.

“I played with him many years with the Irish team,” Keogh recalled. “To win the Grand Final and join his company as the only Irishmen to win one would be very honouring for me and very good for myself because we used to knock around together.”

Keogh says he loves playing A League soccer and believes the appointment of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as manager of Brisbane Roar reaffirms the competition’s international standing.

“Great. Good profile. Great player. It’s always good to have people of that stature representing teams in the A League,” Keogh said. “I’m sure he’ll bring a lot to the team and the league and attract a lot of good imports, good import players.”

Asked if Perth is home now for him and his family, Andy says: “Definitely, we’re getting our citizenship soon so it’s a place we’re calling home for the foreseeable future.”

Also key in Perth Glory’s successful season was former Aston Villa and Millwall defender Shane Lowry.

Born in Perth to Irish parents, Lowry played for Republic of Ireland up to Under- 23 level before declaring for the Socceroos.

Ailish makes footy history with Adelaide Crows

Ailish Considine of the Adelaide Crows with the AFLW Premiership Cup alongside proud mum Kay.

Ailish Considine of the Adelaide Crows with the AFLW Premiership Cup alongside proud mum Kay.

Asked to descibe the feeling of becoming the first Irish woman, and indeed the first non-Australian, to win an AFLW Premiership medal, Ailish Considine simply said: “unbelievable”.

“It doesn’t even feel like it’s real,” she told the Irish Echo after Sunday’s grand final win over Carlton.

In her first year with the Adelaide Crows, the Clare woman and her team stormed to a 63-18 final win at Adelaide Oval. Considine’s goal in the first quarter put Adelaide into a strong lead that they would not relinquish.

Five Irish women competed with AFLW clubs this year with Yvonne Bonner and Cora Staunton at Greater Western Sydney Giants, Sarah Rowe at Collingwood and Aisling McCarthy, who was nominated by her club Western Bulldogs for the Best First-Year Player Award in the AFLW Players Association Most Valuable Players Awards 2019, making up the Irish contingent.

In the competition’s third year, Considine became the first Irish import to win a Grand Final. Asked how it felt to have made such history, she said: “I probably didn’t overthink it but it obviously was mentioned. I saw it on media and stuff. It was in the back of the mind and I guess I just left it there.

“It’s an amazing achievement and I hope I won’t be the last because there’s so much talent back home.

“I think definitely a few more will make the trip out and give Australian Rules a go. It’s unbelievable but hopefully I’ll be the first of many.”

The triumphant Adelaide Crows team, 2019 AFLW Premiers. Picture: AFL

The triumphant Adelaide Crows team, 2019 AFLW Premiers. Picture: AFL

The 25-year-old had much support from home and her family made the trip to support her on the big day.

“It’s absolutely surreal, the whole weekend was just an absolute whirlwind. My family flew in on Friday night. They were here for the weekend and for the game. It was just an absolutely huge weekend and to come out with the win was just an amazing feeling and it was amazing to have my family there and celebrate with them, for them to be part of it as well. The support from home has been brilliant. My phone has just been hopping.”

She marked the occasion of picking up her medal by doing a little jig for the crowd much like Tadhg Kennelly did when he was Ireland’s first AFL Premiership winner in 2005.

“The girls were like, ‘You have to do something when you get your medal. Make sure it’s something Irish being the first Irish woman to win one.’ I had to follow through, I guess. I didn’t do it very well but at least I did it. I held up my part of the deal.”

The game was straightforward for Adelaide who have been in unstoppable form with a one-point loss to Western Bulldogs in Round 1 their only defeat of the campaign: “We approached it like it was just any other game … concentrate on your own game and try and get a good result.

“We did the same thing yesterday and that’s probably why it went so well for us. In fairness to the girls, they’re a great bunch of girls and they didn’t let the week get to them, the build up or the big game or the big crowd. They’re a privilege to play with. Our coaches and staff really kept us level-headed for the week as well. We were fortunate enough to come out with the right result.”

AFLW clubs only renew contracts annually but Considine knows she would love to back for the next campaign after she returns home to play Gaelic football for her club and county in the summer: “I would love to be back playing here again. I’ll have to wait and see and hopefully I’ll be back next year.”

McIlroy claims 'fifth major' on St Patrick's Day

Rory McIlroy on his way to victory at the Players Championship in Florida. Picture: Lynne Sladky

Rory McIlroy on his way to victory at the Players Championship in Florida. Picture: Lynne Sladky

Rory McIlroy celebrated St Patrick's Day in brilliant style becoming the first Irishman to win the prestigious Players Championship after a thrilling final round at Sawgrass.

McIlroy will take renewed confidence into his bid to win a genuine fifth major title at the Masters to complete the career grand slam.

McIlroy recovered from an early double bogey to card a closing 70 and finish 16 under par, one shot ahead of former Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who had threatened to become the oldest winner in tournament history. Furyk set the clubhouse target with a 67 that included two birdies in the last three holes, the 48-year-old - who is less than a month older than 2005 champion Fred Funk - hitting a brilliant approach to just three feet at the last.

However, McIlroy bounced back from a bogey on the 14th with birdies at the next two holes to move back into the lead and safely negotiated the treacherous 17th and 18th to secure a 15th PGA Tour title after starting the season with five consecutive top-six finishes.

McIlroy told Sky Sports: "It's very special. I just tried to treat it like any other day. Even though I've had all those close calls this year, they didn't mean anything.

"If anything they were good for me, I called them 'remote misses', it gives you even more hope to go forward and go again. I think all those experiences this year led me to this point and ultimately they were good for me because it got me over the line today.

"The birdie on 12 was huge to give me a bit of momentum and the final few holes were tough. To get that birdie on 15 after the dropped shot on 14 was massive.

"I knew 16 was a good chance and to par the last two holes and hit three good shots when I needed to, that gives me a lot of confidence going forward."

The victory comes just weeks before McIlroy will attempt to win the Masters and become only the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

The 29-year-old Northern Irishman added: "If I hadn't have won today I would have said I don't need a win going into Augusta, but it's very nice to get a win, especially doing it on this golf course, honestly a golf course that played a little bit similar to the way Augusta will play in a few weeks' time.

"I can take a lot from this. It's taken me a few weeks to get to this point but I feel like I'm playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep going with it and keep doing the same things."

While Shane Lowry missed the cut, Seamus Power finished in a tie for 35th on three-under. The Waterford’ man’s third round included a hole-in-one on the 155-yard third hole.

Conor McGregor arrested and charged in Miami

Conor McGregor’s mug shot from Miami police.

Conor McGregor’s mug shot from Miami police.

Conor McGregor was charged with felony strong-armed robbery and misdemeanor criminal mischief after an altercation with a fan early on Monday morning local time, according to the Miami Beach police.

The Dubliner allegedly “slapped” the phone out of a man’s hand – who had attempted to take the 30-year-old Irish fighter's picture outside of a Miami Beach night club around 5am on Monday.

McGregor allegedly proceeded to stomp on the mobile phone several times, according to the police report. McGregor then picked up the smashed phone and walked away. 

The incident was caught on surveillance cameras and McGregor was arrested later on Monday at his Miami Beach home. The Miami-Herald was first to report the news.

McGregor was arrested last April and faced multiple charges related to his attack on a bus ahead of a UFC event in Brooklyn. Prosecutors eventually agreed to drop two felonies and other charges as part of a plea deal McGregor agreed to in July. 

The plea agreement did not include a probation term.

Leinster's Aussie flanker sees no Irish rugby crisis

Australian flanker Scott Fardy in action for Leinster

Australian flanker Scott Fardy in action for Leinster

Scott Fardy, Leinster’s superstar Australian flanker, has sought to calm Irish rugby fans fears over a pre-World Cup form slump.

Fardy, who has extended his Leinster contract by a year, said he thought Ireland were still in good shape to have a tilt at winning the Rugby World Cup which begins in September.

“I wouldn’t be overly worried about things happening before [the World Cup]” Fardy told The Irish Times. “You’ve got seven games to win the thing. Sometimes you have small dips but I don’t [see an Irish crisis].

“So many things that go in that seven-week tournament. Things can go completely wrong for teams. You saw that with Ireland [in 2015] with injuries.”

Fardy signed with Leinster in 2017 and has made 37 appearances since.

In his first season in Dublin, Fardy helped the province to a Heineken Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 double in a campaign which saw him make 22 appearances and score four tries.

“I’ve re-signed so I’ll be going again for another year,” the 34-year-old told reporters.

“I made that decision a while ago, just things had to get sorted out. I’m really happy to be here for another year and continue to go after trophies.

“We’re enjoying it, my wife’s settled in well and the young fella’s growing up pretty quickly. We’re enjoying our time here in Dublin.

“With the squad you’ve got and the leaders here and the staff as well, no one’s really selling you anything. With the senior players and junior players here, it’s easy to get caught up and enjoy your rugby.”

Martin O'Neill leaves Irish job 'with heavy heart'

Martin O’Neill’s five-year term as manager of the Republic Of Ireland has ended.

Martin O’Neill’s five-year term as manager of the Republic Of Ireland has ended.

Mick McCarthy is the front-runner in the race to replace Martin O'Neill as Republic of Ireland manager after his five-year reign came to an abrupt close.

O'Neill, assistant Roy Keane and their staff parted company with the Football Association of Ireland on Wednesday after its chief executive John Delaney had held talks with the 66-year-old in London on Tuesday evening.

The split had looked increasingly inevitable after a poor Nations League campaign which drew to a close with Monday night's 0-0 draw with Denmark in Aarhus, during which Ireland failed to muster a single shot on target.

In a statement released on his behalf by the League Manager's Association, O'Neill said: "I have had the great honour of managing the Republic of Ireland national football team for the past five years and it is with a heavy heart that I leave this role.

"It was one of my lifetime ambitions to take charge of the Irish senior squad and I would like to thank the FAI board for giving me that opportunity."

He continued: "Knowing that the past year would be a transitional phase for the squad, I have capped twelve new players in the last nine games, with the aim that they become significant international contributors in the coming campaign.

"To the players, I reserve great praise and admiration for the phenomenal commitment they have shown whilst wearing the Irish shirt."

O'Neill's departure from a contract which was due to expire after his side's involvement in Euro 2020 was confirmed in a statement from the FAI.

It read: "The board of the Football Association of Ireland have mutually agreed with Martin O'Neill to part company.

"The FAI board will meet promptly to discuss the process of recruiting a new manager."

Delaney was thrilled to unveil his "dream team" management duo in November 2013 and his faith in the pair was initially rewarded when they guided the Republic to the Euro 2016 finals and then to the play-offs for this summer's World Cup.

Delaney said: "I would like to thank Martin, Roy, and the management team for the impact that they had with the Ireland team. I wish Martin, and the management team, the very best for the future."

Poor results - Ireland have won just one of their last 11 games and have not scored in 397 minutes of football - and uninspiring performances in the last year have seen O'Neill and Keane's stock fall alarmingly.

And the boos which greeted the final whistle in last Thursday evening's 0-0 friendly draw with Northern Ireland at a sparsely-populated Aviva Stadium are understood to have brought matters to a head.

Roy Keane also leaves his job as assistant manager to Martin O’Neill.

Roy Keane also leaves his job as assistant manager to Martin O’Neill.

The FAI is keen to make a swift appointment, with the draw for the Euro 2020 finals due to take place in Dublin on December 2, and, as one of the hosts, they do not want to be seen as presiding over a team in flux as Europe's great and good arrive in the city.

To that end, McCarthy, who took the Republic to the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East during a previous spell in charge, represents an attractive proposition.

He has a proven track record, already has a relationship with the FAI hierarchy and, perhaps more importantly to a governing body still paying for the redevelopment of the Aviva Stadium, is available without the need to pay compensation after leaving Ipswich in April.

McCarthy is understood to be interested in the vacancy and would relish the opportunity to pick up the reins he surrendered in 2002 once again, although he has recently rejected approaches from two English clubs and remains in demand.

But, asked in 2016 if he could return to the Ireland job one day, he told the Irish Examiner: "If there's no manager in it and I'm out of work and someone asked me to do it, of course I'd do it."

McCarthy is by no means the only candidate, with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and Hibernian counterpart Neil Lennon having also been mentioned in dispatches, while Brighton boss Chris Hughton and Dundalk's Stephen Kenny would have popular support, although Hughton in particular appears more than content where he is.

O'Neill's departure may not have come as too much of a surprise, although he had grown increasingly defiant amid a tide of criticism.

Speaking after last month's 1-0 home defeat by Wales, which all but confirmed the Republic's relegation from Nations League B, the former Celtic manager insisted they would qualify for the Euro 2020 finals.

Asked why he was so optimistic, he replied: "Because I'm good."

Ireland World Cup favourites, says All Blacks coach

Ireland’s delighted coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best after the historic win.

Ireland’s delighted coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best after the historic win.

Steve Hansen has installed Ireland as World Cup favourites following their 16-9 win over his New Zealand side in Dublin.

All Blacks boss Hansen hailed Ireland as the "number-one team in the world" following their superlative victory over his back-to-back world champions at the Aviva Stadium.

New Zealand retained their world number-one status despite losing to number-two side Ireland - but head coach Hansen had claimed before the clash that the winner would swipe the global bragging rights.

The All Blacks boss stuck to his word in the wake of Ireland's triumph, and even labelled Joe Schmidt's Ireland as the front-runners for next year's World Cup.

"As I said earlier in the week this was number one versus number two in the world," said Hansen.

"So as of now they are the number-one team in the world.

"So if you want to make them World Cup favourites, go ahead. I guess they are favourites."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen at the Aviva Stadium.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen at the Aviva Stadium.

Jacob Stockdale's 12th try in just 14 Tests sealed Ireland's second-ever victory over New Zealand, backing up their maiden win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, the 40-29 triumph.

Ireland defended for their lives in the second-half and shut out the All Blacks, with the visitors tryless for the first time against a northern hemisphere nation since the 1995 clash with France.

Ireland boss Schmidt insisted afterwards however that All Blacks coach Hansen installing his men as World Cup favourites should be viewed as a cute ruse.

Asked if Hansen's words should be viewed as kidology, Schmidt said: "I think he probably enjoyed a little bit of banter.

"I've huge respect for Steve, Fozzy, and Scott MacLeod, their coaching staff.

"So for us to be favourites when they have been the world number-one team for nine years, and continue to be the world number-one team.

"We were at home, and they were coming off a long series of games where they have travelled around the world a number of times.

"I thought the crowd were phenomenal tonight. And that's a lot of things stacked in our favour.

"So we'll take tonight, and leave 11 months' time for 11 months' time."

Asked if Ireland are now World Cup favourites, Schmidt added: "The World Cup? In 12 months' time?

"We've got to work hard to make sure we're ready for the USA (next Saturday).

"People will I suppose postulate about who's where, who's favourite. It's a nebulous thing for us."

Irish-born Sinead Diver wins Melbourne marathon

Sinead Diver

Sinead Diver

Mayo-mum Sinéad Diver has won the Melbourne Marathon in record time.

Diver, who moved to Melbourne in 2002 and now calls Australia home, set a new course record with a time of 2:25:19 making her the fastest ever Australian female athlete to complete the 42.195km distance in Australia.

It’s also the second fastest marathon ever run by an Irish woman after Catherina McKiernan’s record of 2:22:23.

“Today was the best marathon experience I’ve ever had. It’s really special to get a PB in my hometown. Finishing in the ‘G’, with all my family and friends cheering me on was so emotional,” said the Irish Australian.

Diver is a three-time World Championship representative, and has a spate of wins to date including the Launceston 10, where she broke a course record and ran the fastest 10km road race by an Australian since 2006. 

Diver’s best performance came at the Sunshine Coast Half Marathon where she ran 1:09:20, the fastest time by an Australian in eight years and second fastest ever recorded in Australia. 

She now sets her sights on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Sinead Diver crosses the finish line at the MCG.

Sinead Diver crosses the finish line at the MCG.

Magpies sign Mayo GAA star for AFLW

Sarah Rowe will play for the Magpies in the AFLW competition.

Sarah Rowe will play for the Magpies in the AFLW competition.

Mayo forward Sarah Rowe has signed a deal that will see her join Collingwood in the forthcoming AFLW season. 

The 23-year-old follows long term Mayo team mate Cora Staunton (Greater Western Sydney Giants) and Laura Corrigan-Duryea of Cavan who played with Melbourne Demons for the AFLW’s first two seasons before being delisted recently. 

Rowe has represented Republic of Ireland at soccer and has declared her intention to return to Mayo after her five months in Australia to help her county in their bid for the All-Ireland. 

Rowe travelled to Australia in April, meeting with several clubs before choosing the Magpies. 

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she told the Irish Echo. “I don’t know exactly what to expect. It’s a complete new challenge for me, a new sport, a lot to learn but really looking forward to that aspect of it as well and putting myself out of my comfort zone.

“Football is what I grew up doing so instinct tells me what to do next and I would be able to help people around me whereas now I’m going to need a lot of help off other girls on the team and going to the manager with a lot of questions and stuff. It’s going to be a different role for me completely. You want to try prove yourself in one way but you need to learn all the skills first. It’s just gonna take time.”

Sarah had never been to Australia before she also visited the clubs Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Geelong and North Melbourne. 

“Collingwood was the first club I saw. I was extremely impressed, I thought they were so professional with their presentation. They made me feel very much at home very quickly.”

Rowe and Mayo were defeated by Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland Ladies final. This campaign saw them exit to Galway at the quarter-final stage: 

“Hopefully I learn stuff that I can bring back to Mayo. It’s always been my dream to win an All-Ireland so I would never turn my back on that but it’s great that I get to do both. Going professional is hopefully going to stand to me big time. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s very appealing for Irish girls at the minute.”

Sarah herself has spoken about the inequalities between men’s and women’s sport in Ireland. She was encouraged by what she saw in Australia in this aspect: “The girls get as much of an opportunity as the boys to be in an environment where they can excel so I really liked that side of it. In Ireland at the minute it’s improving an awful lot, things are looking up but it’s still not there yet.”

Sarah will arrive in Australia ahead of pre-season training with Collingwood on November 1. 

Eighteen other Irish women have arrived in Melbourne to try their luck at the Australian game.

Hawks hand Meath rookie AFL debut

Conor Nash becomes the third Irishman to debut in the AFL this season.

Conor Nash becomes the third Irishman to debut in the AFL this season.

Meathman Conor Nash will debut for Hawthorn FC this weekend, the third Irishman to debut in the AFL in 2018.

The 20-year-old joined the Hawks in late 2016 as a Category B rookie.

A promising athlete in his youth, Nash split his time playing Gaelic football and rugby. He represented Ireland in the U18 rugby side, and was touted as a star in the making due to his pace and stature.

He has since transferred these traits to the game of Aussie Rules, enjoying a breakout season with the Box Hill Hawks while averaging 13 disposals, four marks and just under a goal a game.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” Nash told Hawthorn's website after hearing the news that he’d be making his AFL debut against the Geelong Cats this weekend where he will come up against Laois-man Zach Tuohy and Kerryman Mark O'Connor who may get his first game for the year.

“When I found out yesterday in front of the family in the car, it was just pure joy."

Nash’s parents and young brother and sister were enjoying a holiday in Australia and were preparing to return to Ireland before receiving the news.

“Clarko (coach Alistair Clarkson) asked them if they could prolong their flights until Sunday or Monday,” Nash said. 

“I can’t wait, and I look forward to contributing to the team."

“They’ll get to see me play which is a very special moment for them, and for myself as well.”

The 197cm utility from Navan has shown an aptitude for several different positions on the ground, and says he’ll bring the pressure in whatever role he is given.

“I’ll be creating chaos, [creating] pressure as well, and using my speed and athleticism. 

“I’m sure I’ll be spent after the game.”

Nash becomes the third Irish player to debut in 2018 behind Tipperary's Colin O'Riordan for the Sydney Swans and Darragh Joyce for St Kilda. Nash's Irish teammate Conor Glass made his debut last year but none of the trio have been selected this weekend.

Elsewhere, Pearce Hanley is back in action for the Gold Coast Suns, Ciaran Byrne retains his place for Carlton and Conor McKenna starts for Essendon.