United Rugby Championship round 10 review and Ireland Wales Six Nations preview.

Scarlets 7 Munster 42 Leinster 47 Benetton 18 Cardiff 12 Connacht 16 Ospreys 19 Ulster 17   The three matchups against Welsh sides could have served as a good aperitif ahead of the Ireland Wales match next weekend, but in the end, they left a slightly sour taste. Munster only had to play well for perhaps 25 minutes of the second half to put a poor Scarlets side away. Connacht made very hard work of defeating a dogged Cardiff side …

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The prospects for Sinn Féin

There have been quite a few posts on Slugger by able writers such as Michael Palmer, Ian Clarke, and Brian Walker about the prospects for political unionism and particularly the DUP now that the Assembly and Executive have been restored. Mick Fealty has also written a perceptive piece on the opportunity that being the official opposition provides for the SDLP. But no one seems to be writing about the prospects for Sinn Féin. Not being a member or supporter, and …

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Six Nations Rugby Week 2

football stadium

Scotland 16 France 20 England 16 Wales 14 Ireland 36 Italy 0 Once again the 6 nations produced an exciting weekend of rugby, if not all of the highest quality.  Ireland hammered their opponents while the other two matches made up for what they lacked in quality with the closeness of the results and some controversy. Scotland 16 France 20 For the most part this was an appalling game of kick tennis and caterpillar box kicking. France, if anything, were …

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Saving Strand 1 of the Good Friday Agreement by thrashing Strand 2 (and the Northern Ireland economy).

grayscale photo of girl in polka dot long sleeve shirt

Writing in the Irish Times, Newton Emerson is fairly scathing about the DUP/UK government deal. “The DUP is fortunate nationalism is not laughing openly at the party’s deal with the British government. It is not just that the deal’s sea border aspects are “the Windsor Framework in drag”, to quote the Belfast Telegraph’s Sam McBride. Half of the 80-page command paper contains broader ideas for “Safeguarding the Union” – the deal’s title – that invite ridicule. Some are sensible enough …

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6 Nations Opening Match: France 17, Ireland 38

In my match preview I wrote: I find the France Ireland match almost impossible to call. Both sides had a massive disappointment at the world cup, but both are still a top 4 side in the world. Both sides have lost a few key players, but seem to have the strength in depth to cope. Both sides have gone with a 6:2 bench split, which is risky in the event of injuries. I think Ireland are in a good place, …

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Ending All Ireland Economic Cooperation

Paragraphs 114 to 116 of the UK Government Command Paper “Safeguarding the Union” (The DUP deal with the UK Government) contain provisions for ending all British Government commitment to protecting the all-island economy in Ireland as previously agreed with the EU in 2017, and provided for in the UK European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. On the face of it this constitutes a unilateral resiling on agreements previously reached with the EU, and a slap in the face for the Irish …

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What was it all for?

brexit, eu, europe

The events of the DUP meeting on Monday night have been variously described as a farce and a very important crossing of the Rubican. The remarkable thing is that both interpretations may be true. On the one hand you have the harsh reality that not a letter of the Protocol or the Windsor framework have been changed, the operation of which was always going to be subject to operational and political review, depending on any practical difficulties with contraband goods …

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Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…

man holding flag

On August 1st. 2023, The Daily Mail reported that Sunak had decided to retain the CE mark for British produce. In a piece entitled: “Rishi Sunak performs another Brexit climbdown as PM allows British firms to continue using EU’s ‘CE’ safety mark on products ‘indefinitely’ rather than new UKCA alternative” Greg Heffer, Political Correspondent For Mailonline wrote: “Rishi Sunak has performed another Brexit climbdown by allowing firms to continue using the EU’s ‘CE’ safety mark on products ‘indefinitely’. The Prime …

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In Defence of Donaldson

Jeffrey Donaldson has been getting a bad press for what seems like his eternal dithering over devolution and failure to move the process forward. It is said that the party officers are split and that he can’t carry his Executive with him. Even if he does succeed in persuading a narrow majority to support his deal there is a risk of a hugely damaging party split with the anti-Protocol or Windsor Framework faction defecting to the TUV or some other …

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Where stands Irish rugby?

audience, soccer, stadium

So where stands Irish rugby after the conclusion of the pool stages of the Champions Cup and before the start of the 6 Nations? Leinster qualified second out of 16 qualifiers with a home draw all the way to the Semi-final and with the final at Spurs ground in Tottenham anyway. Munster must face their nemesis, Northampton, away, having just lost to them at Thomond Park. But such is their strength in adversity, I wouldn’t bet against them progressing further, their …

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Champions Cup round 3 and Ireland 2024 6 Nations squad selection…

The Franco-Irish Champion’s cup head to heads ended up 2-2 after some good matches between eight teams playing some champagne rugby. It was a great prelude to the main symphony, France vs. Ireland, in Marseilles on 2nd.February. Lyon 34 Connacht 20 Lyon, helped by Paddy Jackson, were too strong for a Connacht side without Aki, Hansen, Bealham. O’Halloran and Blade. However, Connacht came to play and scored two excellent tries by Jansen and Prendergast at the beginning and end of …

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The Leadership of lemmings…

person hand holding paper

A response to Andy Pollak’s book review of The Long Game: Inside Sinn Fein… I have now drafted two responses to Andy Pollak’s book review: The Long Game: Inside Sinn Fein… – Once, a couple of days ago on his own blog Two Irelands Together, and once on Slugger O’Toole. The first disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again, and I hadn’t the heart to try and re-write it. The second fell on deaf ears as the column …

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Planning for a better future…

person holding light bulb

Commentators here and elsewhere have been keen to emphasize all the things Ireland must do to make a united Ireland an attractive proposition for unionists. The presumption seems to be that if you want something badly enough, you have to be prepared to pay for it. Some exhibit an impatience that no one – not Sinn Féin nor the Irish government – has started the bidding. Conversely, opinion polls in the south, while supportive of Irish re-unification, generally show an …

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Irish rugby is in a good place heading into the new year…

In the past Irish rugby internationals like Johnny Sexton, Tommy Bowe or Geordan Murphy were able to ply their trade in France, Wales, or England without detriment to their Ireland careers. Now the assumption is your Irish international career is over if you move abroad, even if, like Simon Zebo, you come back.   Tadgh Beirne was only considered by Ireland when he moved to Munster, and I presume the same will apply to Oli Jager. Donnacha Ryan was never picked …

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European Cup Rugby: Opening round…

The first round of the European Cup took place this weekend with mixed results for the Irish provinces. Ulster and Connacht were hammered by Bath and Bordeaux in Bath and Galway respectively, and Munster could only draw with Bayonne in Thomond Park. Leinster redeemed themselves and Irish rugby, to a degree, with a fighting win against La Rochelle in La Rochelle. Given that Leinster had lost their last three matches against La Rochelle in the semi-final and last two finals …

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United Rugby Championship round 7 and our 2024 Six Nations squad…

Time was when the Home Countries Championship, then the 5 Nations, and then the 6 Nations was the be-all and end all of international rugby. It is still the bread and butter of the participating Unions, funding all their other activities. The World Cup has only been with us since the advent of professional rugby and cost the IRFU a net €9 Million this time around. Without the 6 Nations, professional Irish rugby could not survive.  Now the Captains of …

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United Rugby Championship Round 6 Review…

Last week I had the good fortune to see my prediction of a clean sweep for all the provinces come true but warned that tougher weekends lie ahead. This week my predictions (for the Irish Rugby Fan Forum) were altogether more pessimistic, and unfortunately came true again.  Leinster 21  Munster 16   Prediction: Leinster win, although they won’t have it all their own way.  Munster certainly put it up to a Leinster side containing 14 world cup players in their starting …

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Clean sweep for the provinces – United Rugby Championship Round 5…

It’s not often I get all my predictions right, so I’m going to blow my own trumpet a little here. In a preview of Round 5 of the URC, written for the Irish Rugby Fan Forum, I predicted not only four wins for the Irish provinces, but got the broad shape of those victories right.   Those results mean all four provinces are in the top 6 of the URC table (1. Leinster, 2. Glasgow, 3. Ulster, 4. Connacht, 5. Edinburgh, …

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Rugby: United Rugby Championship, Round Four Review…

man holding rugby ball

Round four of the URC was distinguished by a few notable events. Zebre Parma won their first match since April 2022 after a number of recent near misses. All the Welsh regions lost, and the South African sides continued to struggle in the absence of their World Cup heroes, with the one exception of the Bulls, who lead the table on 15 points, where they are joined by Leinster and Glasgow followed by Ulster and Connacht on 14 points, and …

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Rugby: United Rugby Championship Round 3 review and 6 Nations squad preview…

man holding rugby ball

Leinster 36 Edinburgh 27  Munster 45 Dragons 14  Connacht 22 Ulster 20  As the dust settles on a good, if ultimately unsuccessful, world cup campaign, the focus is once more on how the provinces are doing in the URC. Connacht lead the table on 13 points, having won three from three home matches, their latest being a highly competitive and entertaining 22-20 win over Ulster. Munster are in second place, on 12 points after two bonus point wins and a …

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