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Munster SHC to start week earlier to allow rest period

The Munster Hurling Championship will begin a week earlier next year to allow a break weekend for all counties midway through the round-robin series.

The first round of games will begin on week ending 12 May, one week earlier than 2018, and will be run over six weeks.

The final round of games will take place on week ending 16 June.

The draws for this year’s provincial championships, in hurling and football, will take place on 11 October on RTÉ2.

Meanwhile a new format for the Munster Minor Football Championship has been confirmed on a one-year trial basis.

Phase 1 will see a round-robin format involving Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford with each county getting three games.

The top two teams will then play the Phase 1 final. The winner of the Phase 1 Final will join Cork and Kerry in a Phase 2 round-robin format, with the top two teams qualifying for the Munster final.

The purpose of the new format is to ensure that the developing counties of Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford get at least three games against teams of a similar standard.

The Phase 1 final winner will have played four games before progressing to meet Cork and Kerry.

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Northern Ireland boss points to respect between sides

Michael O’Neill said Northern Ireland’s stalemate with the Republic of Ireland was competed in a climate of "great respect" and played down the home fans’ booing of God Save The Queen before kick-off.

The anthem was drowned out by the natives, with the visiting support doing the same for Amhran na bhFiann but O’Neill was keen to focus on the positives of a scrappy encounter.

"I don’t get involved in this type of thing," he said of the anthem booing.

"People come to a football ground and if they decide to boo an anthem, that’s their decision. I don’t particularly agree with that. I would never condone anyone booing anyone’s anthem but at the end of the day it’s not something I’m in control of.

"Both teams played the game in a great spirit. There was a great respect between the teams. Tackles went in and you could see players picking each other up. There was great respect between the players and that was the most important thing.

"We wish the Republic of Ireland well for their final game against Denmark on Monday."

The North were the better side in Dublin, only denied victory by some excellent Darren Randolph goalkeeping.

They are most likely to get relegated from League B in the Nations League but O’Neill will not be disheartened. He believes their youthful side are a coming force.

"What does relegation from the Nations League mean? I don’t think anyone really knows at this minute.

"I’ve said all along we’re building a team for European qualification, a team that can finish in the top two in the group. I think the team is getting stringer. There’s a youthfulness about it, more pace than there has been.

"The players had to defend but it was mainly setpieces and free-kicks. I thought in terms of possession of the ball and the chances we created in the game, we should have won.

"We have to commend Darren Randolph. He’d a great night, made some very important saves at key moments in the game. Overall we’re pleased with the performances. There is a little pattern there. It was similar to our games in the Nations League where overall we were very dominant.

"Unfortunately, we didn’t take the chances we created. But there were a lot of positives to take from the performance."

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Coleman calls on Irish players to take responsibility

Seamus Coleman has given a frank assessment of the Republic of Ireland's performance against Northern Ireland, saying any promises made in the aftermath of the game are "a load of nonsense really".

The captain has said he and his team-mates must "man-up" and "front-up" to the situation they find themselves in after a third game on the bounce without a goal and another incohesive display.

He told RTÉ Sport: "Not good enough is how I would describe it. We need to man up and take responsibility.

"We need to make angles for each other when we have the ball and be braver on the ball. That is the biggest disappointment.

"Darren [Randolph] got man of the match. We have to front up and do these interviews and say the right things, but the only place we can make it right is on the pitch. We all have to man up and take responsibility and that starts against Denmark."

Asked what is at the heart of Ireland’s problems, the Irish captain said it isn’t about the ability of the players, but what they are getting out of themselves.

"Maybe confidence [is the issue]. I'm never going to knock the quality of our players. I think we all need to step, myself included, and be braver on the ball.

"The talking before the game and this talking after the game, it's a load of nonsense really. It's on the pitch it has to happen. We have to end this year on a high.

"Every one of us have to take responsibility. You [the media] see us in training and we get the ball down and that.

"We have to transfer that onto the pitch on matchday because that is what it is all about and what big players or good players do."

Coleman added that courage needed by Ireland should not come in the often traditional Irish form of a strong challenge or additional physicality.

The former Sligo Rovers man concluded: "Bravery is not always tackling. It's getting on the ball.

"The only place this can be put right is on the football pitch and that's all I can say."

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O’Neill admits disappointment in Ireland performance

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill said Michael Obafemi now has every chance of playing in Monday night’s Nations League clash against Denmark.

The 18-year-old attacker stayed on the bench for the Aviva Stadium friendly stalemate on Thursday night having committed his international future to the Republic of Ireland before kick-off.

O’Neill admitted he was tempted to bring the youngster in the second half against the North but opted for the more experienced Scott Hogan instead.

That being said, the Derryman has not ruled out bringing Obafemi to Aarhus, where his chances of featuring have increased due to Sean Maguire suffering a hamstring injury just 13 minutes after coming off the bench against the North.

Before Obafemi made his international intentions clear, O’Neill had poured cold water on the prospect of bringing him with the squad, insisting he wanted to give the teenager time and space to make his decision. Now, that scenario has changed completely.

"I think he should come to Denmark," he said. "He’s made that commitment, so yeah, we’ll take him. I think he has a chance of performing.

"I said at the start of the week that if he did make the commitment to us then I probably would take him to Denmark. If he hadn’t given that commitment, then there was really no point.

"He made the call. It was really up to him. The treatment he’s had at underage level and the way he was received by the senior players [helped].

"He’s certainly got promise. He’s obviously got work to do. I think he’s very raw. But hopefully in the not too distant future he can be a very decent player for us. Certainly I think it’s asking too much of him to step and be the goalscoring answer for us straight away."

O’Neill admitted Ireland’s toothless attack is a cause for concern but shouldered the blame for another laboured display from his charges.

Boos rang around the stadium at the final whistle as the home fans vented their frustration at a lacklustre showing against the neighbours.

"We didn’t do enough going forward," he added.

"In terms of going forward we should do better. I’m the manager, it’s my responsibility.

"Overall I think the disappointment would be with the supporters. They paid money, and we should do better."

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Republic limp to stalemate with Northern Ireland

Only another night of razor-sharp Darren Randolph reflexes stopped the Republic of Ireland from slumping to defeat at the Aviva Stadium as they played out an uninspiring stalemate with Northern Ireland.

Gavin Whyte and Jordan Jones were denied in each half by the Middlesbrough stopper who superbly faced both men down in one-on-one situations.

The hosts looked disjointed and low in confidence, labouring throughout and only threatening off setpieces, with Shane Duffy and Darragh Lenihan headers rare attempts on goal.

The North – who have now failed to score in their last seven away games – will head into their final Nations League match against Austria buoyed by a decent showing in Dublin, but Martin O’Neil will surely hope for more from his team in Monday’s must-win game against Denmark.

Michael Obafemi, the Southampton attacker who had earlier put an end to speculation about his international future by declaring himself "all in" with the Boys in Green, stayed on the bench, and Sean Maguire limped off 13 minutes after coming on as a sub.

In need of a morale-boost against the neighbours, Ireland got the cold shoulder, the home fans heading for the exits long before the final whistle.

The Official Man of the Match goes to Ireland keeper Darren Randolph! What a performance from the Wicklow man! #COYBIG #IRLNIR pic.twitter.com/m1u3DZPXqF

— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) November 15, 2018

The teamsheet had made for positive reading.

Robbie Brady made his first start in a year, while Seamus Coleman also returned having missed the Nations League games against Denmark and Wales. Blackburn Rovers’ Darragh Lenihan earned a first senior start.

McClean and Coleman flanked midfield trio Jeff Hendrick, Brady and captain Glenn Whelan with Callum O’Dowda more advanced in in a 3-5-2 formation.

Duffy, Egan and Lenihan lined up at the back and Robinson led the line.

After both sets of fans jeered each other’s national anthems, the players went about doing their best impression of the Brexit negotiations: lots of sweaty bluster that mostly went nowhere.

The stadium fizzed with a mixture of cheers and jeers every time McClean got his foot on the ball. Never one to shy away from the boo-boys, the Derryman was a willing outlet in the early exchanges.

Ireland’s first shot in anger came eight minutes in from a throw-in the Stoke winger won down the left, Hendrick eventually teeing up Robinson to have a strike that was deflected out for a corner.

Two minutes later Robinson brilliantly slipped Coleman through but the flag went up just as he squared it for McClean to tap home.

With 14 minutes on the clock, the North spurned a glorious chance to break the deadlock.

Ireland were caught cold from a long punt forward. Liam Boyce found Stuart Dallas with a clever overhead and he laid it on to Whyte, who had the freedom of Lansdowne Road as he trotted into the box. Only a terrific stop from the sprawling Randolph denied the Oxford United man but it was a warning shot.

The home side’s best chances in the first half both came from a tried and trusted resource – dead balls. First, a 22nd-minute free-kick was bent in by Brady; the towering Duffy met it first, nodding into the turf only to see the dropping ball tipped over the bar by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Thirteen minutes later, after O’Dowda was bundled over by George Saville on the right wing, debutant Lenihan got on the end of another Brady special but his header was straight at the visiting keeper.

Sandwiched in between those Irish chances was a Steven Davis free-kick that clipped the head of Duffy in the wall and soared onto the stands, acting as the cue for Whelan to make way for Aston Villa clubmate Conor Hourihane, the veteran receiving a great reception from the home fans in what was, in all likelihood, his final international appearance.

It was scrappy fare but the visitors looked the more threatening, Four minutes before half-time a sloppy Lenihan pass allowed the North to break. Dallas hared through the middle of the park and twisted away from Duffy before curling a low strike goalwards that Randolph read, and saved.

Ronan Curtis replaced O’Dowda at half-time to make his debut, filling in on the right side of a five-man midfield.

But the pattern of the game remained the same. Curtis tried, and failed, to keep in a Robinson through-ball; McClean failed to pull off a nodback that would have freed Robinson; the rusty-looking Brady sliced an outside-of-the-boot pass to Coleman that flew out of touch.

The game was crying out for a moment of inspiration. The natives were on their feet just before the hour mark when Coleman’s crossfield ball dropped to McClean on the left side of the box. He drilled a low strike across goal with Robinson skieing an attempted conversion.

McClean’s withdrawal on 66 minutes for Enda Stevens got the noise levels up again as both sets of fans had another go at their jeering/cheering competition.

Still the Republic of Ireland failed to find any decent rhythm. The excellent Steven Davis chased down everything in green that moved, and they went close again when Randolph could only parry a volleyed cross from the right almost allowing Boyce to toe in the loose ball.

Ultimately, the Middlesbrough stopper did well to fingertip it away from the Northern Irishman’s boot.

Three minutes later, another huge let-off. Lenihan’s heavy touch allowed Jones to pick his pocket and race through on goal but Randolph did exceptionally well again to block his low strike with a telescopic left leg.

The North looked hungrier and pacier now. Davis’s clever pass was inches away from finding Lafferty in the box after a slick forward move; left-back Lewis nutmegged Curtis with a cute backheel. The away fans bounced and roared as they sniffed victory.Home morale sank further when Sean Maguire, on as a sub for Robinson, hobbled off 13 minutes later.

After that flurry, things petered out, inevitably limping to a goalless draw that was greeted with a chorus of home boos.

Roll on Aarhus.

Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, John Egan, Darragh Lenihan (Cyrus Christie 84 mins), James McClean (Enda Stevens 66 mins), Glenn Whelan (capt, Hourihane 36 mins), Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Callum O’Dowda (Ronan Curtis 45 mins), Callum Robinson (Sean Maguire 66 mins, Scott Hogan 79 mins)

Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Jamal Lewis, Jonny Evans, George Saville, Steven Davis, Liam Boyce (Kyle Lafferty 71 mins), Corry Evans (Paddy McNair 65 mins), Stuart Dallas, Gavin Whyte (Jordan Jones 61 mins), Craig Cathcart, Michael Smith (Jamie Ward 74 mins)

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Ireland player ratings: Randolph the only shining light

Darren Randolph (8/10)

Easily Ireland's best player, making three crucial saves.

Two of those danger moments happened in the first half, particularly the first one from a close-range Gavin Whyte shot. The Northern Ireland attacker found himself in a one-on-one situation with the goal at his mercy. But Randolph positioned himself well and made himself big and parried the ball away.

Shaky moment in the second half when a ball was drilled across the area to Boyce but the Ireland keeper did well to clear his lines.

Seamus Coleman (6/10)

Suffered a nasty clash of heads in the first half. Had a penalty call waved away after the hour mark when he got up the pitch and cut in along the wing before he was muscled off the ball in the box. It would have been a soft penalty though.

Tried to advance up pitch and create some opportunities for Ireland.

Darragh Lenihan (4/10)

Made a potentially costly error in the 70th minute when he lost control of the ball and gifted possession to Jones. Randolph spared him with another fantastic save.

Was beaten a few times for pace and had a difficult night at the Aviva.

Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy (4/10)

Misread the ball which led to that Whyte goal-chance in the first half as the Irish defence was exposed. Made a few poor errors and seemed to struggle throughout.

John Egan (5/10)

Put in a good defensive shift and did well in physical exchanges but the defence was leaky overall.

James McClean (5/10)

Was wasteful at times in possession and took shots at goal that sailed well over the target. Had arguably Ireland's best chance of the night when Callum Robinson allowed the ball to run out to him at the edge of the box.

It was from a difficult angle but McClean didn't connect well with the shot and it was blocked away. Replaced by Enda Stevens in the 65th minute.

Callum O'Dowda (5/10)

Suffered a bad knock in the foot after a mistimed tackle in the first half and was withdrawn at the break. Failed to really impose himself on the game otherwise.

Jeff Hendrick (5/10)

Had a bit of an anonymous evening and failed to make any real kind of impression.

Glenn Whelan (6/10)

Whelan earned his 85th international cap with a decent shift which was cut short when he was taken off after 35 minutes. It could well be his last game for Ireland.

Robbie Brady.

Robbie Brady (6/10)

Showed well for the ball and worked hard to try and turnover possession. Got dispossessed a bit easily in the first half which allowed Northern Ireland build an attack but recovered well to force the ball out for a kickout.

Callum Robinson (6/10)

A frustrating night for Robinson but there were some encouraging moments. He tried to send Coleman through on goal in the opening stages with a nice through the Northern Ireland cover who unfortunately was in an offside position.

Had the presence of mind to leave the ball to McClean for a good goal-scoring opportunity in the second half but McClean was unable to make anything of his effort from the edge of the box.

Substitutions

Conor Hourihane (for Whelan 35 mins) 5/10

Didn't really make much of an impact. Had one shot at goal and drilled it well over the bar.

Ronan Curtis (for O'Dowda HT) (5/10)

Delivered a solid performance after coming on for O'Dowda and drew a free when trying to get involved in a counter-attack late in the second half.

Sean Maguire (for Robinson 65 mins)

Was taken off with injury. Not on long enough to rate.

Enda Stevens (for McClean 65 mins)

Not on long enough to rate.

Scott Hogan (for Maguire 78 mins)

Not on long enough to rate

Cyrus Christie (for Lenihan 83 mins)

Not on long enough to rate

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