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Real champ - Lookman and Atalanta triumph in Dublin

Ken Early on the Europa League’s deserving winners; Johnny Watterson on Leinster’s ‘growing force’; Ciaran Murphy on the joy of permutations


Uefa’s guide to Dublin encouraged Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen fans to sample three different Irish potato dishes – boxty, champ and colcannon. After the first half of the Europa League final between the sides at the Aviva Stadium, Ken Early was left wondering if the Leverkusen players had acted upon that recommendation because they played “like they had bellies full of spuds”. When the chips were down, it was, then, Atalanta who rose to the occasion, Gavin Cummiskey saluting Londoner Ademola Lookman who “plugged himself into an electric occasion” and scored a hat-trick that “snatched away Leverkusen’s quest for invincibility” and gave the Italian club the biggest achievement in their history. “Atalanta are deserving and magnificent winners,” writes Ken. “They smashed the biggest sides left in the competition, one after another. Who could begrudge the joy of their outstanding coach, Gian Piero Gasperini, winning the first trophy of his career at the age of 66?”

At the age of 22, Jamie Osborne is seeking the first Champions Cup of his career, the centre from Kildare, writes Johnny Watterson, becoming “a growing force” for Leinster. He may well come up against one of Toulouse’s rising stars in Saturday’s final in London, 21-year-old Paul Costes. “A duel with Osborne in whatever capacity would be a captivating watch,” says John O’Sullivan who traces Costes’ journey.

John also brings news that Leinster might have in or around €1.5 million added to their wage bill after the IRFU confirmed that provinces will now have to contribute 30 per cent to fund each national contract, replacing the current system in which the union fully financed each one.

In Gaelic games, Ciarán Murphy comes armed with a calculator as he figures out the various permutations in the Leinster and Munster hurling championships. “It’s not, strictly speaking, nuclear physics,” he says, but the “GAA’s almost pathological aversion to the “dead rubber” has ensured it is a golden age for the permutation-lover in your life”.

The permutations are straightforward enough for the hurlers of Galway and Dublin. Well, ish. “It’s probable, though not certain, that only one of them will still be standing in the championship come Sunday evening” writes Gordon Manning ahead of their meeting in Salthill on Sunday. And who is the manager of Dublin? Micheál Donoghue, the last man to lead Galway to an All Ireland title.

In cycling, Shane Stokes reports on the opening stage of the Rás Tailteann, British rider Alex Pritchard taking the first yellow jersey, and in his America at Large column, Dave Hannigan tells us about the commencement address delivered by Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker to the 2024 class of Benedictine College. It was, he says, “less a commencement speech and more a wide-ranging papal encyclical dating from sometime before the Second Vatican Council”.

TV Watch: A day after beating Belgium, the second ranked team in the world, Ireland’s men meet Argentina in hockey’s Pro League today (TNT Sports 2, 3.30). Scottie Scheffler will hope for a less eventful trip to Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge than he experienced in Kentucky last week (Sky Sports Golf, 5pm-midnight), and in the Premier Division, Waterford host Drogheda this evening (Virgin Media Two, 7.45).

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