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Sitting in biblical rain for a Connacht semi-final and more of the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on and enjoy some of our favourite pieces from the past seven days.

spectators-look-on-during-the-game Fans looking on at the Connacht SFC semi-final between Galway and Roscommon. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

1. As the ball is thrown in for the second half, someone somewhere turns the rain up a notch. To quote Kevin Barry, it was by now a hysterical downpour.

I realise that my father (happily ensconced in the stand behind me, bone dry) was an idiot, and that you can always get wetter. That first moment when you realise that water is now running playfully between your butt-cheeks is a sobering moment. Rain starts to gather in my crotch, in my armpits . . . my armpits get wet! I don’t even know how.

In the Irish Times, Ciarán Murphy brilliantly captures his experience of watching Galway and Roscommon battle it out in torrential rain at Dr Hyde Park last weekend.

2. Earlier this year, Vialli confirmed that he had been given the all-clear from cancer after dealing with the illness for 17 months. And the pair set off for the Euros together, continuing a journey that started nearly 40 years ago. “We have a relationship that goes way beyond friendship,” Mancini has said of Vialli. “He’s almost like a brother to me.” And Vialli is no less complimentary of Mancini, saying: “Roberto has been my hero since I was 14.”

Mancini and Vialli did as much as anyone to shape Italian football in the 1980s and 1990s. Now they are hoping that their special relationship can be the catalyst to restoring the national team to its former glory. Whatever happens at Wembley on Sunday night, the story of their friendship and near-telepathic understanding on the pitch has given us all something to celebrate.

The Guardian’s Andy Gallagher traces the longstanding friendship between Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli ahead of the Euros final on Sunday.

england-v-romania-international-friendly-riverside-stadium Declan Rice and Jack Grealish [file photo]. Source: PA

3. There are plenty of people who also want to make the point on behalf of the two players that nationality is an intensely personal issue. It is possible, they say, for somebody to feel English and Irish and maybe that requires understanding, not condemnation.

Emmet Malone, the Irish Times’ sportswriter, summed it up neatly when he reminded everyone about the old joke that FAI supposedly meant ‘Find Another Irishman’ in the days when Jack Charlton used to take full advantage of the ‘granny rule.’

“Comfortably more than half the squad he (Charlton) took to Italy for the World Cup in 1990 were born in Britain,” Malone wrote. “The notion that every one of them would have played for Ireland if somebody else had asked first seems, well, a little fanciful.”

Daniel Taylor revisits the story of how Declan Rice and Jack Grealish defected from the Republic of Ireland team to playing for England in the Athletic.

4. Italy did Ireland a major favour four years ago by sending out the reserves in the final group game. According to Foot, the Italians are scandalised if a team tries hard in a game where they have nothing to play for, a tendency which came in handy for Martin O’Neill and co in Lille.

They’ve scalped England a few times in big tournaments and it’d be just like them, the magnificent party-pooping cynics, to do it again.

Save for the few ‘mature’ ones amongst us, the majority will be hoping Italy can do us a favour again.

RTÉ Sport’s Conor Neville addresses how England appear to have corrected their issues with under-performing at major tournaments, and how Italy might be a step too far for them.

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