Thursday 30 March 2017

In Brief: Celtic League gets total makeover

Rugby

IRELAND'S top teams will compete in the RaboDirect Pro12 next season after the Celtic League underwent a rebrand yesterday.

The Dutch bank have agreed a four-year deal to become title sponsors of the competition, taking over from Magners in a deal believed to be worth significantly more to the tournament organisers.

Rebranding the tournament was a separate decision to the new deal, a league spokesperson said, as the introduction of Italian teams had made the Celtic name redundant and the presence of semi-finals and a final meant it was no longer operating as a league.

Hockey

Loreto's Nikki Symmons and Nicci Daly are back in the Irish team after head coach Gene Muller announced an 18-player panel for next week's Champion's Challenge.

Symmons could surpass the 150-cap mark during the tournament if she stays injury-free. The duo were unavailable for selection in last weekend's Celtic Cup and will miss training this weekend as they represent Beaufort in Lille in the EuroHockey Club Champion's Challenge II.

The Champion's Challenge campaign starts on June 18 in the National Hockey Stadium, which pits Ireland against Azerbaijan, India, Spain, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and the USA.

Basketball

An ailing Dirk Nowitzki had his worst shooting game of the NBA Finals but came through in the crunch, leading the Dallas Mavericks to an 86-83 victory over Miami Heat on Tuesday.

Nowitzki scored 10 points in the final quarter -- including a clutch basket with 14.4 seconds left -- to help the Mavericks level the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

Dallas, seeking their first championship, were down 74-65 but went on a 17-4 run to take an 82-78 lead with just over two minutes left.

Motorsport

The reinstated Bahrain Grand Prix is likely to be cancelled because of opposition from teams, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said yesterday.

"Hopefully there'll be peace and quiet and we can return in the future, but of course it's not on," he said. The race in the Gulf kingdom was scheduled for March 13 but was postponed due to civil unrest.

Sailing

Ireland's Annalise Murphy pulled into the overall lead of the Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth yesterday as the Dun Laoghaire sailor scored two emphatic race wins in strong and gusty winds.

The Irish Independent Sailor of the Month led the first race of the day by almost two minutes, leaving world champions and veteran Olympians in her wake.

Elsewhere, Peter O'Leary and David Burrows aim to win the Irish selection trials for the Star keelboat. Yesterday saw them return a seventh and a fourth place in the class. They are in fourth place overall after four races.

Irish Independent

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