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A farewell to Dermo, mayhem as the transfer window closes and the week's best sportswriting

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1. What Bruce meant was that the madness must stop. All these crazy handball penalties have got to stop. Everyone involved with the Premier League agrees; the handball rule is a disaster.

Except the problem is not the rule.

The rule is only a second-order effect of the real problem, which is VAR. VAR has shown us that football is, to a surprising extent, a game of micro-handballs. In the past referees dealt with them equitably, by failing to notice them. If it happened too fast to be perceptible to the naked eye, nobody worried about it. No body, no crime.

Ken Early writes about the handball ‘crisis’ in the Premier League for The Irish Times.

2.  Even though nobody told them straight out the fringe players had a sense of what was coming. Thirty years ago, and for decades before that, the GAA rule on this matter was clear and solemn: the All-Ireland winners will receive 21 medals and absolutely no more. In 1990 it didn’t matter that Cork had won The Double, only the third time such a thing had been achieved in the history of the GAA: there were no exceptions.

* Denis Hurley speaks to several GAA players harshly denied All-Ireland medals though on victorious panels for The Sunday Times.

3. Down the phone line, one former Premier League manager lets out a sigh. “When the transfer window starts,” he says, “You want to make your squad stronger. But then the last day comes and if you are not careful, it can just become: get a player, any fucking player, into the club. There are no rules, there is no loyalty, it becomes every man for himself.”

* ‘Panic, dirty games, skipped medicals – inside the last week of a transfer window,’ from several contributors at The Athletic.

4. With everything you came to know about Gavin’s management through the years, it felt as though the Dublin train had left the station as far as Connolly was concerned.

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He had his chance, many chances it seemed, to return but had spurned them all to be somewhere else that summer. That should have been it. But it wasn’t. As manager, Gavin didn’t have any obvious indulgences and with the depth of his squad, he didn’t need them. But if there was one, it was Connolly.

Even one so process-driven and squad-orientated made allowances for the talent and the promise of what he could do. Connolly could potentially elevate a team like no other player with a wave of those magic wands.

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There has probably never been a better two-footed ball striker in modern Gaelic football. Some have been better with their right, more have been better with their left, but none collectively better at bringing near perfect symmetry off both sides.

The Irish Independent‘s Colm Keys pens a comment piece after Diarmuid Connolly’s inter-county retirement.

5.  It is at this point that people will generally throw in nice-sounding words like “ecosystem” and “the greater good”. They will point out how many of today’s Premier League stars – Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling, Harry Maguire – were forged at EFL clubs. Implicit in this is the idea that from top to bottom, we are all somehow part of an organic and interdependent whole. That when one club goes under, it weakens everyone.

For an alternative standpoint you only had to ask the Burnley manager, Sean Dyche, who took a dim view of Premier League clubs being pressured into bailing out their poorer counterparts. “Does that mean every hedge fund manager who is incredibly successful does that to the hedge fund managers who are not so successful?” he sniffed. “Do the restaurants who are surviving look after the ones who are not? If you are going to apply it to football, you have to apply it to everyone and every business.” (Congratulations, Sean: you’ve just invented social democracy!)

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‘Premier League clubs won’t care if EFL teams go under,’ writes Jonathan Liew of The Guardian.

6. Seven weeks ago, on the morning of Thursday August 6 to be precise, Gary O’Toole had just completed his rounds at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin and was going through his schedule and a wad of correspondence, when he happened upon a handwritten card buried in the pile.

He didn’t need to open it.

The woman who had first taught him to swim had been sending him a card on his birthday every year since 1976; at first from her home in Bray when she was Gwen Collins, his PE teacher, and then from the Carmelite monastery in Delgany when she became Sr Gwen of the Holy Spirit and devoted her life to prayer.

* Part two of Paul Kimmage’s sitdown interview with Gary O’Toole for The Irish Independent: ‘What the Olympian did next – the decisions after the truth about George Gibney was revealed.’

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