Friday 23 February 2018

SHOWDOWN SUNDAY: Here is all you need to know about Ireland's biggest sporting day in modern times

Shane Long and Paul O'Connell
Shane Long and Paul O'Connell
Shane Long scored the equaliser against Poland at the Aviva

Tom Rooney

For even the most casual of Irish sports fans, today's bonanza of athletic endeavour is bound to be one of the highlights of 2015.

There are many among us who live their lives according to the schedules of their favourite teams and once in a blue moon the stars align for those diehards in the form of a sporting schedule like Sunday’s.

In the space of roughly five hours, the respective destinies of Irish rugby and soccer teams will unfold, and for those not lucky enough to see them in the flesh, the whole affair can be viewed from the comfort of your own couch or barstool.

Up first, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland take on France at the Millennium Stadium to decide who will emerge from Pool D in first place and, more importantly, avoid the All Blacks in the quarter finals.

Ireland’s World Cup to date had been relatively muted, having dispatched minnows Canada and Romania with ease. However, after Sunday’s sloppy 16-9 win over Italy, the national focus has been collectively enhanced.

The manner in which Ireland overcome an Italy side that barely beat Canada a week previous, has cast a shadow of doubt over their ability to prevail against the predictably unpredictable French.

France, too, have been victorious in all three of games thus far, but have still failed to establish themselves as genuine contenders.

Simply put, it is a must win for both sides, and a perfect moment in time for one them to rediscover their mojo.

Even so, the alternative to facing New Zealand is Argentina, who have certainly been firing on all cylinders as of late, so making a first ever semi-final may still be beyond Ireland’s reach.

Coverage for the match starts on TV3 at 3.20, before kick off at 4.45.

If your need for on-field drama is still not satisfied, then immediately switch over to RTE2 for the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland in Warsaw.

Sitting in third place in Group D, Martin O’Neill’s men are in prime position to secure a place in the play-offs. Four points ahead of Scotland after the last round of fixtures, a minimal return from the final two games against Germany and Poland could suffice.

The world champions come to the Aviva Stadium on Thursday at full strength and in fine form, while Ireland have been significantly decimated by injury and suspensions, so a pleasing result feels unlikely.

Particularly with the Germans looking  for vengeance after Ireland snatched a 1-1 draw from the  jaws of defeat in the corresponding fixture a year ago in Gelsenkirchen.

Yet, as Ireland are battling Thomas Muller and co, Poland face Scotland in Hampden Park, and if the Eastern Europeans win, Ireland immediately make the play-offs, regardless of how they fare against the world champions.

While this would render the clash with the Poles a dead rubber, it should hardly matter, because this scenario seemed nigh on impossible after the disappointing draw with Scotland last summer, and Ireland could be headed to another major championship.

If the Scots get a result and we lose to Germany, we will need to produce something in Warsaw with Strachan's men facing Gibraltar in their final fixture

Coverage starts on RTE 2 at 7pm, before kick off at 7.45.

For anyone invested in affairs closer to home and our indigenous codes, fear not, you’ve been taken care of too.

There are no fewer than 20 county championship games across the country over the course of the weekend as the GAA schedule moves towards its crescendo. Enjoy.

Armagh SFC final

Athletic Grounds: Armagh Harps v Crossmaglen Rangers, 4.0

Carlow SFC final

Netwatch Cullen Park: Old Leighlin v Palatine, 3.0

Cavan SFC final

Breffni Park: Castlerahan v Kingscourt, 3.0

Clare SHC final

Cusack Park: Clonlara v Sixmilebridge, TBC

Cork SHC final

Pairc Ui Rinn: Glen Rovers v Sarsfields, 4.0

Down SFC final

Pairc Esler: Castlewellan v Kilcoo, 4.0

Fermanagh SFC final

Brewster Park: Derrygonnelly v Roslea, 3.30

Galway SFC final

Tuam Stadium: Corofin v Mountbellew-Moylough, 4.0

Leitrim SHC final

Paric Sean Mac Diarmada: Ballinamore v Carrick, 4.0

Limerick SHC final

Gaelic Grounds: Na Piarsaigh v Patrickswell, 3.30

Louth SHC final

Dunleer: St Fechin’s v Pearse Og, 1.30

Mayo SHC final

Ballyhaunis: Ballyhaunis v Tooreen, 2.30

Meath SHC final

Pairc Tailteann: Kildalkey v Kiltale, 3.0

Offaly SFC final

O'Connor Park: Edenderry v Rhode, 2.40

Tyrone SFC final

Healy Park: Killyclogher v Trillick, 3.30

Roscommon SHC final

Four Roads v Padraig Pearses, Dr Hyde Park, TBC

Sligo SHC final

Markievicz Park: Calry/St Joseph's v Western Gaels, 4.45

Westmeath SFC final

Cusack Park: Castledaly v St Loman's, 3.15

Wicklow SFC final

Aughrim: Rathnew v St Patrick's, 2.30

Ulster club SHC semi-finals

Dungannon: Ballycran v Slaughtneil, 3.30

Owenbeg: Cushendall v Middletown, 3.30


Online Editors

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport