In brief: O'Brien, Judge fail to progress
Snooker's first world ranking event of 2010 has given little indication of green shoots of recovery in the fortunes of Dublin's leading players.
Fergal O'Brien and Michael Judge both fell at the first hurdle of the Totesport.com Welsh Open in Newport yesterday -- a tournament Ken Doherty failed to qualify for.
Having made swift exits from the Shanghai Masters, Grand Prix and UK Championship earlier this season, O'Brien had high hopes of a turnaround following his battling 5-4 victory over China's Li Hang in the final qualifying round.
That optimism remained intact when, helped by a 102 break in the fourth frame, the former British Open champion went into the mid-session interval on level terms with double Crucible winner Mark Williams at 2-2.
On the restart, though, Williams clicked into top gear, putting together back-to-back centuries and pulled away to win 5-2 and safely reach the last 16.
Judge, languishing at 52nd in the provisional rankings after a series of setbacks, suffered a similar fate against John Higgins, who launched and closed his 5-2 victory with breaks of 105 and 109.
Doherty, who has improved to 31st on the world list this season, lost 5-3 to 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in the qualifying competition at Prestatyn last week.
O'Brien, Doherty and Judge now turn their attention to the China Open qualifiers next month. After that, only the World Championship remains this season.
Macklin to join Roach's stable
European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin will team up with revered American trainer Freddie Roach as he steps up his bid to win a world title.
The Birmingham-born Irish boxer enjoyed the best year of his career in 2009 as he finally won the British and European titles after joining Manchester trainer Joe Gallagher's stable.
However, the 27-year-old -- who will have Roach in his corner when he makes the first defence of his European belt against Dmitry Pirog in Birmingham in April -- insists the chance to move to the American's Wild Card Gym, and train alongside the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan in LA, was too good an opportunity to turn down.