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Monday 18 December 2017

Dubs 'fans' miss powerful display

Dublin dramatically won an All-Ireland senior football title for the first time in 16 years last year. On Sunday they began their defence of their title. But when the players ran onto the Croke Park pitch at 4.14pm, they did so to a half-empty Hill 16.

No doubt it'll be a different story if Pat Gilroy steers his side to a Leinster final.

But no wonder supporters from other counties like to poke fun at Dublin.

Not only did the "fair weather fans" let the side down, they missed an impressively clinical display of powerful Gaelic football, played the way the game was always meant to be played.

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Having been steamrolled by Dublin (2-22 to 0-12) on Sunday, Louth's manager Peter Fitzpatrick had the unenviable task of rummaging through the wreckage for positive points. Beleaguered Fitzer remains a poster boy for optimism.

"We came across a machine today," he admitted. "Louth football is good at the moment.

"We did very well to stay in Division 2 and I hope next year we'll be pushing for Division 1.

"This team has given full commitment. But I was gobsmacked by Dublin's performance."

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What's happened to Scottish football? Seeing them play England in the 1996 European Championship on television recently reminded me of a time when Scotland invariably qualified for major tournaments.

But that was the last time Scotland made the Euro finals. If they fail to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (from a group with Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia and Wales), they won't have been in a major tournament since '98.

On a positive note, perhaps the problems at Rangers FC will mean that promising Scottish players will be forced to gain experience in a proper league elsewhere.

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Following Carl Frampton's confident success in his first time going 12 rounds, against Mexico's Raul Hirales last week, the Belfast Commonwealth super-bantamweight champion has European champion Kiko Martinez in his sights.

But backstage at The Late Late Show, McGuigan revealed that if, for business reasons, the Kiko bout can't be made, Canadian southpaw Steve Molitor (34-2, 12KOs) will be the unbeaten Jackal's (14, 9KOs) most likely next opponent.

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Will the pairing of Dries Mertens (Belgium) and Jamie Moralee (agent) be the pebble that England's Euro hopes flounder on this year?

The pair have created serious hassle for England manager Roy Hodgson. Mertens brazenly shoved Gary Cahill into England keeper Joe Hart in Saturday's friendly.

With Cahill out with a double fracture of his jaw, Hodgson called up Martin Kelly.

Rio Ferdinand's agent, Moralee, criticised the England gaffer via Twitter, re-opening the debate about team selection.

If some of England's senior players don't deliver, Hodgson will get it in the neck for not selecting the experienced Ferdinand, even though his club boss, Alex Ferguson, doesn't reckon Rio would be fit enough.

Who'll be England's next whipping boy?

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