The name at the top of the leaderboard midway through Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament at Muirfield in Dublin, Ohio was Rory, but that was the southern hemisphere Rory; Sabbatini, to be precise. As for Rory McIlroy, he was headed out the door, having missed the cut in his third straight tournament. Tiger Woods claimed the title on the Sunday, equaling Nicklaus’s own record of 73 PGA tour wins.
McIlroy was three strokes off the mark at 36 holes, having shot 150 when 147 or better was needed. He began the tournament on the back nine on Thursday and went four strokes over par at the par-3 12th hole with a quadruple-bogey 7. He salvaged his round by taking five strokes off par the rest of the trip, including an eagle-3 at the fifth hole, for a score of 71.
Friday just turned plain ugly, however. McIlroy couldn’t buy a birdie. The front nine wasn’t too bad, as he made the turn two strokes over par. But matters turned surreal at 11, where he carded the first of two double bogeys. He managed to save par at 12 on this occasion, which was the highlight of his round. The numbers totaled 79 and he was soon left to contemplate how to spend his weekend.
“It just seems like every time I go out there I make one or two big numbers and that sort of throws me, a couple [double bogeys] on the back nine,” McIlroy said on Friday. “Just those big numbers at the beginning are killing me, and I just need to get those off the card and I’ll be okay.
“I don’t feel like the scores are actually reflecting how I’m hitting the ball. I was able to string nine good holes together yesterday. I just need to keep working on it and try to string 18 good holes together and then try and string two days together, and obviously three days and, ultimately, four.”
McIlroy will now play this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis as a tune-up for his U.S. Open defense the following week.
Paul McGinley and Peter Lawrie continue to prosper. The duo tied for sixth place in the Wales Open at the Celtic Manor Resort. They both shot 4-under-par 280 to finish two strokes in back of Thongchai Jaidee.
McGinley put 72, 73 and 70 on his scorecards before finishing with a Sunday low round of 65. Lawrie shot 72, 73, 69 and 67.
McGinley had parred each of the first seven holes on Sunday, and then took birdie on six of the remaining 11 holes without bogey. Lawrie, likewise, had a bogey-free Sunday, but took all his birdies (4) on the front nine.
A less is more attitude, while he pursues outside interests, may be behind McGinley’s resurgence.
“I’m really focused this year and spent a lot of time the last few years setting up businesses and that’s gone very well,” McGinley said. “I’ve got seven golf courses under construction at the moment and that’s taken up a lot of time, but to be honest it’s worked in my favor, because it’s given me a freshness when I play golf. I haven’t played a whole lot, but I’ve played well in all my tournaments so far this year and, hopefully, I can keep that up.
“Might have a little bit of an Indian summer in my career. I’m 45 years old now, so there’s still a chance for me to do some good.”
Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton also made the cut. McGrane finished joint-28th at 286 (71-71-69-75), while Thornton was two strokes back at 288 (69-73-77-69), which was good for a share of 35th place.
Gareth Maybin, 149 (73-76), and Michael Hoey, 151 (75-76), both missed the cut, which fell at 147. Shane Lowry withdrew after an opening-round 81.
Arlington’s Friday card had something of an Irish tinge to it. James Graham rode Grazie, the second-longest shot on the board, to a nearly 6-length victory in the second race, a claiming mile on the main track. The win mutuel came back $25.80.
Two races later, it was John Haran’s turn to unleash a winner at double-digit odds. His Henry’s Time used the old turf-to-dirt angle to capture the fourth race, a claiming sprint at the $16,000 tier for non-winners of three career races, by almost a length. A.L Contreras rode Henry’s Time, which had to withstand an objection from the trainer of the second finisher, before punters could collect their $22.40 win payoffs.
As if the win prices hadn’t been high enough, along came Irish-bred Freedom Reigns from the barn of Doug Matthews to win the seventh race. The 3-year-old filly, a product of the Irish National Stud, is owned by John Wade in partnership with Ben McElroy and Darrell and Lendy Brown. Freedom Reigns, previously winless in five starts for Kevin Prendergast in Ireland and one start for Matthews, rallied under Florent Geroux to get up by a nose in this maiden special weight grass race and post a $47.40 win mutuel.
Earlier in the week, Graham was in Erie, Pa. to kick off the season at Presque Isle Downs, where he had the honor of winning the first race on the card. He aired by five lengths on Angel Terrace for trainer Jonathan Sheppard in a maiden special weight sprint. Angel Terrace returned $3.20 to win.
Cathal Lynch got wins out of two of his barn’s erstwhile stalwarts. The Derryman kicked off Preakness weekend at Pimlico by sending out his Universal Language to win Friday’s first race. By winning this starter handicap, the 5-year-old mare made it seven victories from her last 11 races. Kendrick Carmouche rode Universal Language, which returned $3.40 to win as the heavy chalk.
Then, on Sunday, Ko-Ko-Mo Stable and Smith’s Lil Kiara rallied under Angel Arroyo to score by almost two lengths in an allowance/optional claiming race around two turns at Parx. The winner, a 5-year-old homebred mare, has won stakes races for New Jersey-bred stock and can be expected to line up in similar races at Monmouth Park this spring and summer. She paid $4.60 in winning at Parx.
Derek Ryan had a winning weekend at Monmouth Park, although he bid adieu to one of his runners via the claim box. He sent out Metro Thoroughbreds’ I’m Not Myself to a neck victory in Saturday’s first race, a claiming sprint restricted to those having only broken their maidens. After Carmouche (back from Pimlico), disembarked in the winner’s circle, Ryan was informed that rival trainer Juan Serey had ponied up the $12,500 for I’m Not Myself. The win mutuel came back $7.60.
Sunday’s sixth race at Monmouth went to Liam Benson’s Choral Society, which Ryan trains. This 3-year-old gelding has suddenly gotten into a winning habit since hitting New Jersey. He broke his maiden at the Meadowlands two weeks prior after going winless in six races in Florida. Most recently, the Benson homebred prospered as the favorite under Joe Bravo, rallying to reach the wire in front by just over a length against rival claiming stock racing on the grass. Choral Society paid $5.40 to win.
Eddie Kenneally also won a pair of races, only in New York at Belmont Park. He sent Douglas Arnold’s Powhatan Princess out to a 3-length tally in Wednesday’s fifth race, a claiming sprint. The win mutuel came back $11.20 in the filly’s second race since Kenneally took over her training.
Kenneally then won Thursday’s fourth race, another claiming sprint, with Wallace Fluhr’s A Boy Named Em. Javier Castellano got him to the wire almost five lengths in front for a $9.40 win mutuel. But the 3-year-old gelding will do his racing next time out for Gary Gullo, who put up the $14,000 required to claim A Boy Named Em.
It’s Lansdowne Bhoys vs. New York Greek-American/Atlas in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League [CSL] championship match June 3. This follows the Bhoys’ dramatic 5-4 sudden death penalty victory over defending champs Pancyprian Freedoms in the playoffs at Tibbetts Brook Field Park last Sunday.
There was more Irish glee in the CSL playoffs with Shamrock, the Over-30 Div. West titlists, also prevailing 5-4 in sudden death against East runners-up Barnstonworth Rovers Premier on Randalls Island. They clash with Atlas’ Over-30 side on June 3 as well to decide the division’s undisputed champions.
And in the D’Arpino Cup, Lansdowne’ reserves overcame Metro Div. One Korabi 4-2 to advance to the semi-finals against Missile FC.
Livewire forward Conor Hunter was key in Lansdowne’s victory over Pancyprian with a goal in the 1-1 regulation time draw — his fourth in as many games for the Bhoys.
He struck from the spot on the hour after Craig Purcell was fouled and then converted a penalty in the ensuing shoot-out after the Greek-Cypriots had leveled.
Hyden Johns, Mike Fernandez, Sean Purcell and Steven Conway also connected in the shoot-out, whose other hero was goalie Andrew Tartara with two saves.
“Credit goes to the whole squad for a great performance,” said coach Kevin Grogan. “We deserved it, but we’re not getting carried away.”
Lansdowne qualified for the playoffs as East division winners, while Pancyprian, the national amateur champions, finished second to Atlas in the West.
The Greeks, meanwhile, also needed penalties to defeat Barnstonworth Rovers, runners-up to Lansdowne in the East, in the other First Division playoff.
Bingo O’Driscoll, Shamrock’s veteran midfielder, put on a Man of the Match performance with both goals in the Rocks’ 2-2 regulation tie with Premier that led to penalties.
His first came from a Stevie Keating through ball that he chested and blasted home [10th].
Alan Tardeau [35th] leveled for Premier who then sighed with relief after Mike Bishop’s header came off the post. The Rocks would briefly rue that miss when Andy Bay [70th] shot Premier ahead.
Coach Paddy McCarry’s response was to go with three men upfront. The move paid off with O’Driscoll [80th] smashing in a thunderous header — a la Drogba, McCarry noted — from skipper Steven Doyle’s delivery.
Paddy Geraghty, Bingo, Bishop and Eddie Gilmartin connected during the first round of penalties that ended 4-4. Burim Ljuta then grabbed the winner after Shamrock goalie Alan Quirke had made a save and Premier then smacked their next effort against the post.
“Pure heart, the lads never gave up,” McCarry said about his men.
He also had props for assistant coach and Shamrock reserve team ace Sean McMullen. “We wouldn’t be here without him,” McCarry remarked.
McMullen would later return to Randalls and notch both goals in the Shamrock seconds’ season- ending 2-2 draw with Central Park Rangers Reds.
Robbie “The Touch” Green struck twice in the Bhoys’ D’Arpino Cup triumph over Korabi.
Brendan Hansbury also connected to set up a semi-final date with another Metro One side, Missile FC.
To reach the quarterfinals, Lansdowne saw off mtul Nieuw Amsterdam 2-0, Pancyprian’s second unit 6-2 and New York Athletic Club 5-2.
It was rocky at first at Bushwick Inlet. But after falling behind early, eight unanswered goals powered Manhattan Celtic to an 8-1 romp over Turkish American that saw them end a remarkable campaign in the Second Division with a hundred percent record [16-0, 48].
John Tanios and Man of the Match Mat Negus both scored hat tricks while Mohammed Ndua added a brace for the new champions.
Celtics’ reserves won 1-0, courtesy of Dan Callow to finish the season atop the log with a 15-1  record.
“Both teams played well. All the guys where delighted to be part of a successful season,” summed up Ian Woodcock.
At a Boston venue better known for its musical offerings than fisticuffs, New England junior welterweight Danny O’Connor attempts to hit a high note this Thursday night in a renewed quest for world title contender status.
The Framingham, Mass., prizefighter [16-1] is scheduled to go 10 rounds with Daniel Sostre at the House of Blues, in the main event of a Boston vs. New York card co-promoted by his new manager, rocker Ken Casey of the group Dropkick Murphys.
“I probably know about [Sostre] as much as he knows about himself,” O’Connor told the Echo from Houston, Texas, last Sunday before winding up training camp under Ronnie Shields. “I’ve been watching tapes of him every single day.”
The former national Golden Gloves champion spoke highly of his foe, who touts an 11-5-1 record [4 KOs], and expects a good fight.
“He’s a really skilled fighter, sharp and throws crisp punches,” noted O’Connor, adding that he would still handle Sostre if he listened to trainer Shields and stuck to their fight plan.
He described Shields, who’s worked with greats such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Pernell “Sweetpea” Whitaker, as an amazing trainer with a vast knowledge.
“KID” ROONEY BEATEN
Light middleweight Kevin “Kid” Rooney, Jr. was knocked down twice en route to a four-round unanimous points loss to Anthony “Sweet Tooth” Jones at the Times Union Center in upstate Albany last Friday.
Rooney, the son of famed trainer Kevin Rooney, appeared to have brushed off Jones’ quick start when he was adjudged to have been knocked down by a sweeping right hand late in the first round.
His second trip to the canvas in round two from a hard left to the jaw from the southpaw Jones was more obvious. The Fordham graduate, nonetheless, dusted himself off and proceeded to have a good third heat during which he connected with one-twos throughout the round.
Rooney had his moments in the fourth and final stanza as the two fighters exchanged punches liberally. But at that point he needed a knockout to salvage the fight after fallen behind because of the knockdowns.
The three cards read 39-35, 38-36, and 38-36 all in favor of the now 2-0-1 Jones. Rooney’s ledger dropped to 4-2 with two KOs. The fight was televised nationally on ESPN.
The FAI are calling next Saturday’s soccer friendly against Bosnia Herzegovina at the Aviva “The Big Send Off,” the final home game before the Boys in Green head off to a training camp in Italy prior to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. Giovanni Trapattoni was the first manager of the 16 Euro finalists to name his squad; indeed the Italian could probably have named 22 of the 23 players on New Year’s Day. The only question was whether Trap would reward the excellent form shown by Derry’s James McClean for Sunderland this season. McClean saw 11 minutes of international action in the 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic last February and it will be interesting to see if the 23-year-old Derry man features on Saturday afternoon.
After a long, hard English season, where all but one of the Irish squad ply their trade, the players will probably be taking it easy on Saturday and trying to ensure that they won’t pick up any injuries. However, fringe players like McClean, midfielder Keith Fahey and strikers Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox will be trying to impress the manager if they get some game time. John O’Shea, who injured his calf in Sunderland’s last league game of the season against Manchester United is fit to travel, but may be rested on Saturday. This will be our first-ever meeting with Bosnia Herzegovina, who finished runners-up to France in their qualifying group and then lost 6-2 on aggregate to Portugal in the play-offs.
Meanwhile the FAI has confirmed that the UEFA has granted permission for the Irish players to wear black armbands against Italy on June 18 to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the 1994 massacare in Loughlinisland. The game against Italy in Poznan falls exactly 18 years to the day when six Catholics were shot by the UVF in a the County Down pub while watching the Republic’s game against Italy at Giants’ Stadium at the 1994 World Cup.
The Munster GAA has made a good call by putting on a double header at Semple Stadium on Sunday next. Normally a football game between Tipperary and Kerry in Thurles would not attract a huge crowd, but pair it with a Munster hurling game between Tipperary and Limerick and you then have a mouth-watering double
header. Kerry had a slight blip in their preparations with coach Donie
Buckley stepping down, he is now replaced in the backroom team by Eamon Fitzmaurice.
In Kerry, where supporters concentrate more on the playing personnel, the backroom changes are not seen as hugely important. This will be the third year in-a-row that Tipp and Kerry meet at the quarterfinal stage in Munster; Kerry won by 11 points in Killarney last year and by 12 points in Thurles in 2010. When Declan Browne played for Tipp he really caused problems for the Kerry defence, but since his retirement the Kingdom have had it easy and with many of Jack O’Connor’s young players playing for their places on Sunday they are unlikely to slip up. The hurling game in Thurles should be much closer. Lar Corbett is back for Tipp, but he has not played a competitive game since lining out for his club Thurles Sarsfields last October. It’s good news for Tipp that Corbett is back and while Lar definitely won’t start I wouldn’t rule out a late appearance as a sub if Tipp are struggling in attack. There is no love lost between Tipp and Limerick when it comes to hurling and while Limerick will travel to Semple as underdogs they certainly won’t be overawed by the opposition. Limerick had a blip in their preparations with selector Ciaran Carey quitting after complaining about the team’s training methods. I fancy Tipp to win.
MEATH SHOULD WIN
VS. IMPROVED WICKLOW
A big game also in Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow. where Meath take on Wicklow. Seamus McEneaney just about survived as Meath manager last month and the Monaghan man will be hoping for a good performance from his team on Sunday. Mick O’Dwyer had some great days in charge of Wicklow, but new Wicklow manager Harry Murphy has done something O’Dwyer failed to do, get the Garden County out of division four. Not only did Wicklow win promotion, they beat a fancied Fermanagh side in the division 4 final. This is real championship stuff, two counties with great football traditions playing in the compact Dr. Cullen Park. It will be tight, but Meath should progress.
Clones is another great GAA summer venue and on Sunday Monaghan take on Antrim at their own St Tiernach’s Park. Antrim finished mid-table in division three, while Monaghan were relegated from division two. I fancy Antrim to cause a mild upset here.
GUNNER RICE TO RETIRE
Pat Rice is retiring as assistant manager of Arsenal at the end of this season. Rice, who was born in Belfast, grew up in London and joined the Gunners as an apprentice in1964. Apart from four years with Watford between 1980 and 1984, He spent his entire playing and coaching career with Arsenal. For long spells in the 1970s the Arsenal 1-2-3 was all Northern Irish: Jennings, Rice and Nelson. And then, O’Leary and Brady from the Republic made it majority Irish at times (such as when the day they won the 1979 F.A. Cup). Rice, who was 63 on St Patrick’s Day, is quitting due to chronic knee problems. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger paid a glowing tribute to his former assistant and confirmed that another former Arsenal star Steve Bould will replace him.
HEAD FOR APPLE
New York will be the destination for this year’s All Stars football tour later this year. Last year the All Star hurlers visited San Francisco, but there were fears that this year’s football trip would not go ahead after Vodafone ended their sponsorship. Gaelic Players CEO Dessie Farrell said: ‘‘The tour will be reviewed on a year-by-year basis but, to be fair, Opel has been a great sponsor. I think they are in it for the long haul.’’
PLAYERS TO STUDY
STATE OF THE GAME
New GAA president Liam O’Neill has turned to former Offaly manager Eugene McGee to try and analyze the current state of Gaelic football. McGee in turn has formed his own group of former intercounty players who will watch various games over the summer months and submit a report on the state of the game by October. The eight former players in the working group are: Killian Burns (Kerry), Declan Darcy (Leitrim and Dublin), Paul Early (Roscommon), Kevin Griffin (Mayo), Tim Healy (Wicklow), Ciaran McBride (Tyrone), Tony Scullin (Derry) and John Tobin (Galway).
It will soon be eight years since Spain defeated Russia 1-0 in their opening game at the 2004 European Championships in Portugal. The match was watched by just under 30,000 at the Estadio do Algarve in Faro-Loule and the venue looked small yet impressive as fans all over the continent tuned in on television. These days, the pride the Portuguese locals felt during that event has been replaced by embarrassment and regret. The Estadio do Algarve was recently turned into a temporary school as a debate rages about whether or not the authorities should make the prudent financial decision and demolish it.
This is not the only stadium from Euro 2004 to be under consideration for demolition due to the fact the facilities are no longer viable. Estadio Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa turned into another white elephant when the local club UD Leira could no longer afford to pay to play home games there. Given their average attendance of just over 2000, it was costing Leira too much to stage matches at the same place which hosted Croatia versus France eight summers back. With no tenant and precious other activity, it has turned into a drain on the public coffers and many politicians have pointed out it would make more sense to knock it.
Against this unpromising background then, the recent news the FAI is exploring the possibility of trying to host the 2020 European Championships in tandem with Wales and Scotland should not be greeted with any acclaim. Yes, it would be fantastic to have the best countries in Europe playing competitively in Ireland. No, it would not be worth it. Even if the FAI are making no immediate plans for purpose-built stadia (at least none they will confess to right now), the lesson to be learnt here is that, for all the glory that would be involved, there is precious little financial return.
Of course, the problem here is that UEFA don’t officially accept bids until 18 months from now. This means we are about to exposed to a year and a half of absolute balderdash regarding the potential impact such an event would have on the country’s beleaguered economy. After all these are the same people who told us the 2011 Europa League final would be worth €50 million to the local economy. Co-hosting the Euros would generate more than that fantasy number but at what cost?
Before the first silly number is thrown out then by those trying to convince us a financially-strapped sports body in a financially-strapped country should be getting involved in those sort of enterprise, please consider the following quote.
“Estimates of the economic effects generated by major sporting events should not be exaggerated. The complexity of cause and effect and the various overlapping aspects make any reliable measurement of these effects accurately impossible. Realistically, neither macroeconomic nor lasting direct economic benefits can be expected from such events.”
That nugget comes from the official Swiss report into their part in co-hosting Euro 2008 with their Austrian neighbors. It’s an interesting read. Indeed, one wonders if anybody in the FAI will bother to cast a glance over it some time in the next year or so. The Swiss were happy with how things went because, from the outset, they knew it was a loss-maker. Amongst other things, they warned future bidders though that fans from other nations tend to spend a lot less time and money in host cities than is predicted beforehand.
That’s not the kind of information you are likely to hear once the FAI start convincing people that this is just what Ireland needs at this juncture in its history. Maybe John Delaney needs to talk to the Swiss (not for nothing a wealthy, independent country) before he does anything else. Between 2002 and 2006, the Swiss estimate for hosting the tournament went from 11 million to 178 million Swiss Francs, largely due to them not realizing the prohibitive price of improving security at games and around squads during the event. Who’d be a fly on the wall when the FAI and the Gardaí sit down and try to work out the overtime bill? That will be an interesting accounting exercise.
The sad thing about this is we thought all these kind of lunatic plans were the preserve of the Celtic Tiger era when, to quote our mothers, our eyes were bigger than our bellies. You’d think that the lessons of the last few years would have taught people not to be overstretching themselves. You’d also imagine the FAI need to be spending more money on improving grass-roots facilities and coaching rather than on fanciful castles in the air.
The stupidity of getting involved in these kinds of grand schemes at a time when the country is mired in so much debt would seem to be obvious to all except the denizens of Irish soccer. If they need any further examples of ambition outstripping reality, they should turn to Greece.
As part of the €265 million renovation of Athens Olympic Stadium ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games, they built a high-tech indoor training facility. This was regarded as the type of legacy project that would stand the country’s athletes in good stead for generations to come. These days, a leak in the roof means long jumpers have to negotiate a strategically-placed bucket as they sprint towards the sand pit. The money isn’t there to fund basic repairs and the budget is so tight the heating in this cavernous building where Greece’s finest medal prospects come to train can only be turned on for one hour each day. One hour.
“The expression of interest is preliminary after the principle was discussed and is being put forward by the three associations so that the opportunity can be explored in more detail,” said the FAI in a statement. “At this stage no bids would be expected or required by UEFA for at least 18 months.”
Eighteen months is surely long enough for them to see sense. Well, we can only hope.
THE All-Ireland Football campaign is very much up and running following victories for Donegal, Galway, Louth, Longford and Limerick over the weekend.
And while no sensible person will read too much into preliminary and first round matches in May, both Donegal and Galway have good reason to feel pleased with themselves. Donegal opened their defense of the Ulster Championship with a 1-16 to 1-10 victory over Cavan at Breffni Park.
Galway were even more emphatic winners, trouncing Roscommon by 3-15 to 0-10 at Dr Hyde Park. There was clear evidence that both are moving in the right direction.
Take Donegal. During last season’s campaign that eventually saw them lose to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, there was considerable criticism of manager Jim McGuinness’s over dependence on a blanket defense.
But there are definite signs that they have moved on. While they are still strong defensively, they are now more prepared to throw players forward in support of the attack.
Basically, they did what they had to do against a young Cavan side. Despite the absence of the injured Michael Murphy, they had the match well in control by half-time.
At that stage, they were 1-7 to 0-4 clear, a six-point cushion they maintained during the second period. In the absence of Murphy, Colm McFadden was the main torn in Cavan’s side.
He contributed 1-6, slotting home a penalty and also kicking five frees. Rory Kavanagh also did well, marking his 100th appearance with three points from play.
Cavan started promisingly, picking off long range scores to lead 0-3 to 0-1 after seven minutes but thereafter they couldn’t match a much superior Donegal outfit. In the circumstances, Cavan full-forward Eugene Keating did really well to manage five points from play.
He was also pulled down for a second half penalty which substitute Niall McDermott scored from with 10 minutes left.
Kavanagh, the Donegal captain summed it up: “It wasn’t a classic, but we had to go out to win and we did that. We’ll have boys like Michael Murphy back from injury the next day and will be the better for it.”
That next day will see Donegal play Derry on June 11 while Cavan will go into the qualifiers, starting on June 23. In Connacht, Galway are through to a semi-final meeting with Sligo on June 9 following their demolition of a disappointing Roscommon.
Manager Alan Mulholland has every reason to feel encouraged. They started really well, had a bit of a digy patch in the middle of the game, but then pulled well clear again following the introduction of Padraic Joyce and Michael Meehan.
But the man-of-the-match was undoubtedly Paul Conroy at full-forward. He delivered 1-4 from play and also helped to set up Mark Hehir for Galway’s first goal.
Effectively, the match was over by the 23rd minute after Conroy had sent a low shot into the net for Galway’s second goal. Behind by 2-7 to 0-3, Roscommon were already a beaten team.
Sadly, their main threat Donal Shine had an off day, managing just two frees. To further discourage the home supporters, Galway brought on Meehan and Joyce to wreak havoc in the second half.
Meehan showed that he is hopefully at long last over his injury problems by scoring two points and then setting up a goal for Gary Sice. Joe Bergin also had a big day, dominating at midfield.
Mulholland expressed his satisfaction saying: “We are not going to pretend we didn’t play well. The first 20 minutes was really good, the middle third a bit ropey but we brought on Padraic Joyce and Michael Meehan to see us out for the last 20 minutes.”
In Leinster, Louth booked a clash with All-Ireland champions Dublin at Croke Park on June 3 after winning a nail-biting encounter 2-9 to 0-14 against Westmeath at Navan. It took a scrambled goal from debutant substitute Danny O’Connor six minutes into injury time to give Louth their victory.
It was hard on Westmeath who had looked in control for much of the second half. As their manager Pat Flanagan put it: “Sometimes you don’t get the rub of the green, we hit the crossbar, they score with a toe-poke of a goal.”
Louth boss Peter Fitzpatrick reacted, stating: “A match is not over until the final whistle and we have learnt that the hard way in recent years. Danny O’Connor is a young lad only 21 years of age.
“We saw him playing for his club a few weeks ago and put him in the panel. He got the goal and that’s what it is all about.”
Either way, Louth are going to have to improve an awful lot if they are to extend Dublin. Importantly, they got the goals and Westmeath didn’t, the first of them coming from Ronan Carroll in the first half.
John Heslin gave fine performance for Westmeath, scoring five points, but unfortunately his efforts counted for nothing when O’Connor struck home his late goal.
Neither was there much in the meeting of Longford and Laois at Pearse Park. Longford staged an outstanding comeback to come from 0-9 to 0-3 behind before winning 1-10 to 0-12.
Laois must still be wondering how they let it slip. Manager Justin McNulty reflected: “We controlled the game for long periods. They took their chances, we didn’t.”
That’s true but credit must go to Longford for beating Laois for the first time in 44 years. The game changing moment came early in the second half when Paul Barden was on hand to score a well taken goal.
Barden, the Longford center-forward and captain, was an inspirationl figure, finishing with 1-2. Eventually, Longford got their noses in front but they had to witstand a late scare when the ball finished in their net following a free.
But the Sligo referee Michael Duffy quite rightly ruled it out. All of which means that Longford will play Wexford in the next round at Corke Park on June 3 with Laois going into the qualifiers.
The only game in the Munster Senior Football Championship, meanwhile, saw Limerick comfortably get the better of Waterford 2-12 to 0-7. Ian Ryan was the hero, scoring 1-8.
Westmeath shock Antrim
THERE was a big shock in the first round of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship when Westmeath overcame Antrim 0-14 to 0-12 at Mullingar.
The victory was all the more noteworthy because Westmeath played with only 14 men for 46 minutes. Ahead 0-8 to 0-3 at the interval, Antrim must have thought the job was done.
But Westmeath roared back with an outstanding second half effort. Niall O’Brien contributed 0-8, six from frees, as they went ahead in the closing minutes.
Their reward is a quarter-final meeting with Galway. Elsewhere in the Leinster Championship, Laois got the better of Carlow by 0-20 to 0-13 at Dr Cullen Park with Willie Hyland getting a remarkable 13 points. They will face Dublin in the last eight.
Na Fianna took home the Annie Kearney Cup on the heels of a dominant second half display when they stormed into the lead and should have been much further ahead but for wayward shooting. A brilliant display from midfielder Kathryn Sullivan in this period set the foundation for the victory. The defense also closed their ranks by holding Cavan to four points in the final half hour, which was huge.
Na Fianna had been behind at the break 0-09 to 0-05 after Cavan dominated the final fifteen minutes of the opening half. Both sides had two points in the opening eight minutes with Emma Clarke’s score from distance the best of the bunch. Nicola King had the third point for Cavan when Alisha Jordon set her up. Kings bullet had goal all over it but it tailed high and over the bar. Na Fianna responded with a clear goal chance when Kelly McCormack was free to the left of goal moments later. Her shot was excellently smothered by Nora Kilkenny however. Na Fianna with Aine O’Dwyer prominent had three of the next four points before Cavan then began to dominate with Alisha Jordon and Linda McKeon taking control in the middle. A stream of points, six without reply pushed them into the lead. It left the challengers ahead by four at the break.
While the sides swapped points to open the second half the control of the game was changing. Emma Clarke had a point for Cavan with three minutes gone but that was to be their last score for a full 18 minutes. A slew of chances in front of goal for the winners came up short. Alison Reilly stopped a shot with her body while Nora Kilkenny made another tremendous save to keep her sides chances alive. A Mary O’Rourke point however was followed by the all important breakthrough goal. Aine O’Dwyer set up Mary O’Rourke and then player of the game Sullivan followed with two points from play. Nora Kilkenny made another fine stop but the pressure was intense. Dwyer followed with a pair of points from a free and play to extend the advantage to 1-12 to 0-11. Cavan tested Alison Leyden with an Alisha Jordon shot and they did add two points from a free and play but it was as close as they could get as Na Fianna held on for the first silverware of the year.
Cavan 1 Nora Kilkenny 2 Aileen O’Reilly 3 Nicola O’Reilly 4 Kate Kilkenny 5 Katie McEvoy 6 Caroline McBrien 7 Tina Lenihan 8 Linda McKeon (0-01) 9 Alisha Jordon (0-04)10 Maraid Ruane 11 Mary Hanley 12 Rosie O’Reilly 13 Catherina Rafferty 14 Emma Clarke (0-06)15 Nicola King (0-02) Subs Kelly Donaghue
Na Fianna 1 Alison Leydon 2 Shannon Spillane 3 Jessie Garcia 4 Imelda Mullarkey 5 Stephanie Tierney 6 Catherina Lynch 7 Bridget Judd 8 Fiona O’Dwyer 9 Kathryn Sullivan (0-03) 10 Brianna Tierney 11 Aine Dwyer (0-06) 12 Natasha Barrwell (0-01) 13 Jeannine Rynn 14 Mary O’Rourke (1-02) 15 Kelly McCormack
Referee: Alan Hearty
Player of the Match: Kathryn Sullivan
Cavan steam roll Orchard
Cavan used a dominant attacking style with ten players on the scoreboard to overwhelm Armagh on Sunday. With the defenders kicking five points and the forwards gelling like a well timed machine, it was too much for their opponents to contain. But for too crucial saves from Alan Hearty the defeat would have been even heavier.
After the sides split scores to open the game, Cavan went on a point scoring spree. Paul Lambe started the onslaught when he linked with Munnelly and Clarke to fire over. Kennedy, Kelly and Eoghan Carew added scores to move the side into a 5 points to 1 lead by the seventh minute. Further points arrived before Armagh had a mini reprieve when Richie Morgan grabbed 1-01. The goal was a fisted effort on the end of a long ball in to the square by Seamus McDaid. Cavan again dominated the final ten minutes however with a goal from Mike Kennedy and four points from James Connolly, two, Sean Munnelly and the advancing Ronan McGinley. . It left the Breffni Boys holding a 1-12 to 1-02 half time advantage.
Both sides had three points each in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. It was the calm before the final storm as the winners outscored their opponents 1-04 to 0-02 as the game wound down. Sean Munnelly had an excellent point when he linked with Paddy McCullough. James Connolly forced a good save from Alan Hearty and Barry McGinn joined the attack to slot over his second as the attacks kept on coming. The goal arrived with three minutes left when Ciaran Shields and Sean Munnelly set up Ciaran Clarke for a fisted effort over the advancing Hearty who was powerless to stop it. A comprehensive victory for Cavan.
Cavan 1 Gavin Joyce 2 Ronan McGinley (0-02) 4 Ciaran Martin 5 Paul Lambe (0-01) 6 Ciaran Shields 7 Barry McGinn (0-02)8 Paddy McCullough (0-02) 9 Sean Kelly (0-01)10 Ciaran Clarke (1-01)11 Eoghan Carew (0-03)12 Sean Munnelly (0-02)13 Michael Kennedy (1-01)15 James Connolly (0-04)
Armagh 1 Alan Hearty 2 Patsy Martin 4 Collie Fearan 5 Stuart Stokes 6 Caolan Short 7 Aiden Morton 8 Brian Patton (0-02)9 Kevin McGeeney 10 Seamy McDaid 11 Richie Morgan (1-03)12 Gary Nugent (0-01)13 Raymie Kane 15 Liam Collins Sub Kenny Cox (0-01)
Referee: Tommy Fahey
Man of the Match: James Connolly
For the second year in a row, Graeme McDowell was matched with Nicolas Colsaerts in the Volvo World Match Play Championship. The only difference this time around is that they met up in the final round with everything at stake, whereas last year they clashed in the quarterfinal round. One thing that didn’t change was the result – Colsaerts defeated McDowell this year, just as he did in 2011.
Colsaerts didn’t have it easy, however. McDowell made the Belgian hole out on the final green at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain to collect his loot.
McDowell was in chase mode throughout his encounter with Colsaerts. The 2010 U.S. Open champ squared the match three times on the front nine, and then twice trimmed a hole off a 2-hole deficit on the backside.
The event began with 24 golfers segmented into eight sections, with each golfer playing the other two in his section in order to advance. McDowell handled Robert Karlsson, 1 up, and Jbe Kruger, 4 and 3 to move on.
At the same time, Darren Clarke was falling to Robert Rock, 2 up, and Justin Rose, 6 and 4, to get knocked out of further play.
McDowell continued his winning streak on Saturday over Richard Finch, 3 and 2, and Sergio Garcia. The latter match was decided on the 19th green.
Sunday morning found McDowell enjoying a 2 up win over Rafael Cabrera Bello, while Colsaerts labored through 20 holes before finally putting Paul Lawrie away. That set up the final round, which was hampered by strong winds.
Erratic iron play by McDowell worked to Colsaerts’ benefit, but the Belgian gifted McDowell by 3-putting the 15th and 17th greens.
The match was decided at 18, a par 5, with Colsaerts on the green in two. McDowell’s wedge approach flew the green, leaving Colsaerts an open door to the title. This time he didn’t need three putts for his ball to drop.
“The conditions today were brutal, so really have to fire and grind to stay in the position you were in,” Colsaerts said after defeating McDowell. “These two games today really, really killed me mentally.”
“The elements played a huge part,” said McDowell, who has thrived on playing in difficult conditions, such as those he encountered learning the game in Portrush. “I’m disappointed that they probably came out the winner today, rather than the two players. It really affected the standard of golf. They really played into his hands the way he drove the ball; he drove the ball phenomenally well. He’s got great wind game and he’s a fantastic talent. I got beat by the better man.”
Padraig Harrington strung together four strong rounds after derailing the previous week at the Players Championship. He finished joint-15th at the Byron Nelson Classic at TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, seven strokes behind the suddenly seemingly unbeatable Jason Dufner.
In an ironic twist, Harrington nearly lost as many strokes to par (5) in his first round as he did in the three subsequent rounds combined (6), although he hung up his best score (68) in that first round. That was because he also came up with five birdies and an eagle-3 to tilt the scale in his favor.
Although he played well to avoid serious damage in those final three rounds, shooting 69, 70 and 69, he never did come up with more than three birdies on any day. While catching up with Dufner was something of a non-starter late on Sunday, Harrington cost himself a top-10 finish with bogeys at 15 and 17. That 15th hole also bit him on both Thursday and Saturday.
One thing that was certain as the playoff commenced at the conclusion of regulation at the Gosser Open was that the champion would be Irish. But would it be Brendan McCarroll or Gareth Shaw?
Shaw birdied the 18th hole to finish the 54-hole Austrian tournament abreast of McCarroll atop the leaderboard. They both finished 14 strokes under par at 202. McCarroll shot rounds of 68, 66 and 68, while Shaw signed to 67, 68 and 67.
They matched each other at 18 on the first extra hole, but Shaw’s drive landed behind a tree the next time down the fairway, which compromised his approach. McCarroll had merely to make par to pick up his first title on this feeder circuit to the European Tour.
PLAUDITS came thick and fast following Leinster’s 42-14 Heineken Cup final success over Ulster in front of a capacity 81,774 crowd at Twickenham last Saturday.
There were so many it was hard to pick out one that demonstrates the sheer quality of this Leinster squad. But maybe the former England World Cup winning scrum-half Matt Dawson summed it up as well any anyone.
“No question, Leinster are the best squad ever in northern hemisphere history. Congrats.” Dawson commented.
That’s a big statement and it’s all the better that it came from someone who was so heavily involved with the English scene. The only slight change I might make is to say that they are the best squad and probably have the best coach to have graced European Cup rugby.
Because last Saturday was about the squad and the coaching set-up, most noticably head coach Joe Schmidt. Since his arrival Schmidt has developed Leinster into a team capable of playing a stunning brand of rugby.
If last season’s comeback final victory over Northampton was good, last Saturday’s success was even better. To have won such a competitive tournament three times in four years is quite astonishing.
It’s also unprecented. And while it’s seems ludicrous to suggest that any team could win the competition four times in five years, no one is ruling it out, especially as next season’s final is set for the Aviva Stadium.
Anyway, back to the events of last Saturday. The first thing that should be said is that the final scoreline didn’t do justice to Ulster’s efforts in what was a first ever all-Ireland final.
The made a huge effort putting Leinster under insense pressure at times. But only once could they break through a magnificent Leinster defence for a try.
With seven minutes remaining they were trailing 27-14 when their South African full-back Stefan Terblanche was yellow carded for a foolish spear tackle. If Ulster found the job of playing with 15 men against Leinster was difficult, then they discovered that it was impossible to do so with 14.
Leinster duly ran in two more tries as they finished 42-14 clear for a record winning margin. It was a brilliant end to a marvellous campaign.
Although the final scoreline might have been a bit unfair to Ulster, there was absolutely no denying Leinster superiority. Everyone played well, from the starting line-up to the substitutes, which was quite remarkable given that Leinster had their share of injury worries going into the final.
Brian O’Driscoll had undergone keyhole surgery on his damaged knee a week before the final. But yet again he put such concerns to one side to deliver another huge performance, his flip pass to Sean O’Brien to help set up one of Leinster’s five tries being a match highlight.
That’s O’Driscoll, he somehow continues to confound the medics. The man-of-the-match award, however, deservedly went to O’Brien for a performance which saw him score a try and generally terrorise the Ulster defence.
Once again, Johnny Sexton was top class at out-half, only missing once from seven goalkicking attempts before his late substitution. So was Rob Kearney at full-back.
Kearney, in fact, set the tone for Leinster with a magnificent catch on the run in the opening stages. Leinster needed to be very good defensively in that first half as Ulster spent a good deal of time in their half.
The difference was that Leinster were able to score tries. Two, the first from O’Brien and the second from prop Cian Healy after some outstanding play from O’Driscoll and O’Brien.
Consequently, Leinster went in at half-time 14-6 ahead, Ruan Pienaar having landed two penalties for Ulster, one from inside his own half. Unfortunately, their promising 20-year-old out-half Paddy Jackson found the occasion too much and needed to be substituted six minutes into the second half. By then, Leinster had been awarded a penalty try to move 21-6 clear. Effectively the match was over but Ulster, to their credit, did manage to reduce Leinster’s lead to 24-14 as the game entered the final quarter, Paddy Wallace setting up Dan Tuohy for a very good try.
Time for Leinster to move up another gear and they did so with two further penalties from Sexton before substitutes Van der Meuwe and Sean Cronin ran in those late tries. It was the perfect way to finish before attempting to complete the double when they face the Ospreys in the RaboDirect Pro12 final on Sunday.
Can Leinster go on and win the trophy three years in a row and four times in five years? Brian O’Driscoll is definitely not ruling it out.
“I would image we will try and defend the trophy as much as we did this year. The pleasure of being involved with this group of players is that I know how hungry they are and they will push one another.”
Leinster skipper Leo Cullen tried to put the contribution of Schmidt in perspective, stating: “He demands high standards. You might think I’m joking but he’ll find plenty from that game to look at.”
Sadly, the Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin won’t be looking at improving standards as he will be replaced for next season. Typically, he departed with a good deal of grace, commenting: “It’s hard to take but Leinster are an outstanding side. They just punish you at every opportunity.”
Taylor heads to London
as world champion
EVERYTHING it would seem is in place for Katie Taylor to make make a successful gold medal bid at the London Olympics.
The Bray, Co. Wicklow, boxer claimed her fourth successive AIBA World title when beating Russian Sofya Ochigava 11-7 in the lightweight title in China. Her efforts earned her the Best Boxer of the tournament.
The 25-year-old Taylor will now get a bye into the quarter-final of the Olympics because she is the top seed. All of which means that she is only one win away from gaining a bronze medal.
For the moment, she is just relieved to have won the World title and gained Olympic qualification. “It’s great to be going to the Olympics as the current World Champion.” she stressed.
“I will improve again over the next few weeks and hopefully I’ll come back with that gold medal for my country.”
She may well do so, although the Taylor camp appreciate that nothing can be taken for granted. Her father and coach Peter will leave not leave anything to chance in the quest for the gold medal.
Importantly, Taylor can adapt against any opponent. She is capable of going forward, throwing fast combinations and equally adapt at moving away and avoiding punches.
It was a combination which saw her win a fascinating contest with Ochigava. The Russian is again expected to be her main rival at the Olympics but interestingly Taylor is calling for wild cards to be given to allow other top class opponents who have not qualified.
They include Cheng Dong of China and America’s Queen Underwood. “I think there are a few wildcards to be given out still and it’s important that they give them to the best boxers.” argued Taylor.
“We need to showcase the best talent out there. I hope they make the right decision.”