Forget Qatar: Ireland Set to Sizzle With Live Sport this Autumn

So, all that bravado about travelling to the World Cup has – unsurprisingly – turned out to have been nothing but 2 am post-pub talk, confidently trotted out months ago.

The bloated out-of-control monied-up farrago that is the FIFA World Cup is upon us once again.

But, you’re not going – although you have managed to dodge accusations of lazily never doing anything about booking trips or buying tickets by, very cleverly, pinning the decision on signing up in agreement with the public backlash to David Beckham’s gushing promotional video for host nation Qatar.

But, while you can still watch the matches, your natural appetite for a live-in-the-flesh sport still needs to be sated.

Well, it still can be, by simply selecting from our handy-to-use guide to the myriad live sporting events taking place in Ireland over the autumn months.

Here are some suggestions:

Return of the Jumps (Fairyhouse Racecourse, Co Meath; October 8, Gates open 11.15 am; first race 1.45 pm)

Does pretty much what it says on the tin, this one. Fairyhouse marks the beginning of the new National Hunt horseracing season (that being races over jumps, rather than flat – or no jumps – racing as played out during the late summer).

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If horseracing is your thing, then Fairyhouse is for you.

FAI Cup Semi-Finals (October 16: Derry City v Treaty Utd, The Brandywell, Derry 2 pm/Waterford v Shelbourne, RSC, Waterford 4.45 pm)

The recent quarter-finals threw up some big shocks – with the unexpected exits of Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, UCD and Bohemians – meaning this season’s FAI Cup is now really up for grabs. Limerick side Treaty Utd will travel to the Brandywell to take on Derry City, while Waterford hosts Shelbourne at the RSC in the other semi-final.

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Waterford will play Shelbourne in the FAI Cup semi-finals.

United Rugby Championship: Leinster v Munster (Aviva Stadium, Dublin; October 22, 5:15 pm)

‘Fever in the Aviva’ comes early this season. Because of Covid-induced fixture congestion last season, this will be the third meeting between these two behemoths this calendar year, with the traditional St Stephen’s Day clash at Thomond Park in Limerick scheduled to rack up the 4th meeting of the two in 2022. However, given the competitive shot-in-the-arm the South African teams have given the United Rugby Championship (and Munster’s poor start to the new season), this one could already have more riding on it than just plain pride and bragging rights. Leinster has won 8 out of the last 10 battles against Munster.

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Leinster v Munster: more of the same?

United Rugby Championship: Various matches October

October is a key early month in the URC, with the fixture schedule throwing up a huge number of early heavyweight clashes. Struggling Connacht welcome Munster and Leinster to Galway on consecutive weekends (October 7 and 14 respectively); the first visit of the South African teams occurs with Leinster hosting the Sharks (October 8) and Munster hosting the Bulls (October 15). Ulster and Connacht also travel to Munster (October 29 and November 26, respectively).

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Connacht already need results to pick up fast.

World Lightweight Title Fight: Katie Taylor v Karen Elizabeth Carabajal (Wembley Arena, London; October 29)

A bit of a cheat this one. While not in Ireland at all – it takes place at London’s Wembley Arena – Katie Taylor’s defence of her world lightweight title is sure to fill sofas, pubs and any place next to a streaming device, all across Ireland next month. She fights equally unbeaten Argentinian fighter Karen Elizabeth Carabajal, who will be fighting outside of her home country for the first time. The wait for Katie’s Croke Park rematch with Amanda Serrano goes on for a little longer.

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Katie Taylor victorious after her epic and historic bout with Amanda Serrano in New York’s Madison Square Garden last April.

Dublin City Marathon (October 30, first runners off at 8:45am)

The capital’s marathon is back after a 3-year Covid-19/pandemic/lockdown-induced hiatus with event organisers hoping for another personal best performance having attracted a record 22,000 entrants in the last staging in 2019. Once again, the route starts at Fitzwilliam Street and finishes up at Merrion Square.

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Only another 25.5 miles to go…

Autumn International Series Rugby: Ireland v South Africa (Aviva Stadium, Dublin; November 5, 5.30pm)

After three wins over the mighty All Blacks in less than 12 months – including this summer’s mind-meltingly historic 2-1 series win on New Zealand soil – Ireland return home to the Aviva and turn their attention to another three-time World Cup winner, the equally mighty Springboks. The last time these two met, in this same November home series in 2017, Ireland enjoyed a record 38-3 win against South Africa. A lot has happened since – not least South Africa winning a World Cup and a test series against the British and Irish Lions. Despite having just come up short in the recent Rugby Championship (the southern hemisphere’s version of the Six Nations), South Africa are likely to provide the true yardstick of Ireland’s progress ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup, where we are due to play the Springboks again.

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This might hurt a little…

Rugby Friendly: Munster v South Africa Select XV (Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork; November 10, 7.30 pm)

A welcome return to the days of mid-week international tour games. These games just don’t happen enough. While the southern hemisphere giants used to routinely play mid-week regional matches when they toured Europe back in the 70s and 80s, it doesn’t happen so much nowadays. But, the last time it did saw New Zealand steal a last-gasp 18-16 win over Munster at Thomond Park in Limerick in 2008; 30 years after Munster’s famous 12-0 humbling of the All Blacks in 1978. This one could be the match of autumn!

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Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork.

Autumn International Series Rugby: Ireland v Fiji (Aviva Stadium, Dublin; November 12, 1 pm)

Fiji’s improvement in the 15-man game – parallel to their already legendary 7s status – has been evident in recent years. They had a strong 2019 World Cup – beating Georgia and giving Australia and Wales scares – and narrowly lost by just three points (23-20) on their last visit to Dublin in 2017. This one will be interesting, given the likely team rotation as it falls between the South Africa and Australia fixtures. Fiji is currently ranked 12th in the IRB rankings, ahead of both Italy and Georgia.

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The Flying Fijians

Autumn International Series Rugby: Ireland v Australia (Aviva Stadium, Dublin; November 19, 8 pm)

Ireland hasn’t played the Wallabies since 2018 and hasn’t played them in Dublin since 2017. But, our recent record is excellent – having won four of the last five meetings with Australia. Before last summer’s celebrations in New Zealand, Ireland’s tour of Australia in 2018 resulted in their first summer series win over the Wallabies – or, indeed, anyone down under – since 1979.

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Australia visits Dublin for the first time in five years.

Punchestown Winter Festival (Punchestown Racecourse, Co Kildare November 19-20)

Punchestown…FUN-Charlestown, more like! It may not be April in the afterglow of Cheltenham, but the Punchestown Winter Festival is still a standout on the Irish racing calendar in its own right. A total of 14 top-quality races are up for decision, over the weekend, featuring a number of top-graded racing actions contested by a range of top horses, jockeys, trainers and owners. Gowran Park in Kilkenny also has three autumn race fixtures (October 1, 18; November 26).

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Punchestown is a year-round draw for punters.

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