SPORTS COLUMNISTS

DOWN IN DISTANCE: The drop back in trip should play to the strengths of Ballycasey, who ran out of stamina in the RSA.

RUBY WALSH: Two and a half miles ideal for Ballycasey<

Well, I’m not a million miles away from swinging back into action and it is now a case of all guns blazing for the Punchestown festival.

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MOUTHWATERING PROSPECT: If Australia (pictured) and Kingman both turn up for next month's Newmarket 2000 Guineas, it could be a clash to remember.

PAT KEANE: Let’s hope the battle of the juggernauts comes to fruition

Those who love flat racing, and there are plenty of us, can only pray that Kingman and Australia take each other on in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday, May 3.

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Conor McGrath tries to get past Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton and Shane McGrath in last month's Allianz Hurling League clash. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

ENDA MCEVOY: Tipp’s first task is to protect their net

“You knew what he was going to do. You just couldn’t stop him doing it.”

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Joe Canning: Returns to the Galway team for meeting with Kilkenny.

TONY CONSIDINE: Last four must give us a taste of summer

Kilkenny and Clare should hold sway

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LIAM MACKEY: A nation in denial has little support

Having rocked them in the Dáil, as the Sawdoctors had it, Michael D certainly rocked them in the Guildhall, and beyond, when he announced during his visit to London that he would be supporting England at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

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Everton manager Roberto Martinez

KEITH ANDREWS: Martinez has Toffees’ Irish crew ticking

Everton hosting Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Wednesday was always going to be a tough game for the Toffees, as their opponents had won three on the bounce and surged from relegation candidates to relative mid-table safety under the guidance of the experienced Tony Pulis.

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LARRY RYAN: Gerrard calm admirable as expectant city awaits glory

“This does not fucking slip now.” Steven Gerrard’s huddle — the inspirational moment that will define an unlikely triumph? Or an ominous poke from the finger of fear?

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BRENDAN OBRIEN: A small country thinking we’re in the big leagues

Sitting down with Aidan O’Shea in Croke Park earlier this week, it was impossible to avoid the contrast between the words escaping the Mayo footballer’s mouth and what was transpiring just across the River Liffey in Leinster House, where Paraic Duffy and Liam O’Neill were appearing before an Oireachtas committee.

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WHITE AND BLUE: Tony Browne feels the strain after a narrow defeat to Kilkenny in July 2013, at Semple Stadium. Picture: Stephen McCarthy

MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Browne: Often challenged, never mastered

It was four years ago when Tony Browne sat down with this writer for a long chat about his passion.

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The punditry game has been taken to a new level since Sky have teamed Gary Neville, pictured, and Jamie Carragher together.

DONAL OG CUSACK: Pundits must delve much deeper to provide real insight into our games

Last week in Newcestown, the forward caught me with a decent enough belt, to be fair to him.

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Josh Strauss scores Glasgow's third try on Saturday last despite the efforts of Munster's Donncha O'Callaghan. Picture: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

RONAN OGARA: JJ crucial to Munster hopes

Munster fans will probably be unhappy with the defeat to Glasgow last weekend, but I wouldn’t be too downhearted about that.

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PADDY HEANEY: A long journey but Lynch now fulfilling promise with Derry

Before coaching became such an integral part of football, the best managers were essentially natural-born sports psychologists.

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JOHN RIORDAN: Corkman Crowley building a reputation in Empire State

Bryant ‘Peewee’ Cruz’s life changed when a local policeman took him off the Port Chester streets and hand delivered him to a boxing gym called Champs in New Rochelle, just north of New York City.

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Simon Zebo

DONAL LENIHAN: Penney must keep his stars under wraps

Having already lost inspirational captain Peter O’Mahony for the business end of the season, Rob Penney will be mindful of making sure his key personnel are fresh and raring to go when Munster set out to upset the odds once again by toppling Heineken Cup champions Toulon in Marseille on Sunday week.

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Dr Hans Geyer, Managing Director of the Centre for Preventive Doping Research of the German University of Cologne, in attendance at the Irish Sports Council's Anti-Doping Review for 2013. Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street, Dublin.

DERVAL OROURKE: Wouldn’t it be amazing to watch an Olympic 100m final knowing each athlete had a catalogue of samples frozen in a lab somewhere that will be re-tested in the future?

Both at home and further afield, it’s been a busy few day in the world of anti-doping.

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DAVID SHONFIELD: Horror of Hillsborough disaster still resonates today

No one who went to a football match in England on Saturday, April 15, 1989 is likely to forget what happened that day.

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JOHN FOGARTY: Lack of segregation such a blessing for the GAA

This writer was nine years old when 96 lives were lost in Hillsborough this day in 1989.

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KIERAN SHANNON: Putting a perspective on success on fringes of the Major league

It’s torture and in a way he’s tortured, but Pádraig Harrington has the good grace and awareness to realise he’s still one of the lucky ones.

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RAY SILKE: Second-half collapse will alarm Rebel management

1 - Cork have a lot to improve on

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MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Marking my card on the black peril

They say the new black card system in football has shaved away a good deal of the cynicism. I decided to have a look yesterday at the game I was covering, Derry-Mayo in Croke Park, to see if the evidence bore out the presumption.

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James Horan

MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Mayo must break free of shackles

The temptation is always to look for the deeper meaning, of course. The extra layer.

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DARA OCINNEIDE: Observing Rebels rising

We were stationed behind the scoring goal in Austin Stack Park for Kerry’s capitulation against Cork last weekend.

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JOHN MCHENRY: Winner needs impeccable credentials

Can anyone tell me why it is that watching golf being played around Augusta National by the world’s best players is so much fun?

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LIAM MACKEY: An Irish rhythm to Mersey beat

Tomorrow’s meeting of Liverpool and Manchester City is probably the most eagerly anticipated Premier League game for neutrals this season, as England’s two highest-scoring teams meet in a game which will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the 2014 title race.

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KEITH ANDREWS: Brilliant Bayern still the team to beat

Now that the draw for the Champions League semi-finals has been made, I have no doubt we will see two very different match-ups when Real Madrid face Bayern Munich and Chelsea come up against Atletico Madrid.

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RUBY WALSH: Don’t delay, get it started first time

I have to start this week with last Saturday’s Grand National and the furore concerning the false start.

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LARRY RYAN: Jose stars in his own theatre of the absurd

A mixed week at the upper echelons of the bullshit trade. We lost one of the greats. It says much about the business The Ultimate Warrior was involved in that many people took time to be convinced he was really dead and that the announcement wasn’t a stunt.

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PAT KEANE: Style and substance to Vautour form

The Punchestown festival will see the end of the National Hunt season in the dying days of this month and into early May.

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