Friday 24 March 2017

Munster grind out victory

RUGBY UNION: Munster got their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign off to the best possible start by grinding out a workman-like 20-12 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Musgrave Park last night.

Munster landed the first serious blow when centre Danny Barnes touched down for a try after 26 minutes. Most of the credit goes to Johne Murphy for creating the chance by taking off on a 40-yard run and then popping an off-load to Barnes to score.

A perfectly-executed training ground move created Munster's second when Billy Holland collected at the back of the line-out and popped the ball to Denis Hurley who in turn passed to Lifeimi Mafi for a clear run to the line.

Munster led by 17-6 at half time but the Dragons scored second-half penalties from out-half Jason Tovey to reduce the deficit to just five points.

But even though Munster were down to 13 men after Peter O'Mahony and Damien Varley were sin-binned in quick succession, they rumbled back down the field and forced the Dragons to cough up a penalty that Ian Keatley converted.

And with that, Dragons' momentum was gone and Munster claimed the victory.

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Connacht coach Eric Elwood was left to breathe a sigh of relief after his side resisted a late comeback against Treviso to earn an opening day 11-9 win on the road in Italy.

The Western province appeared to be in cruise control after a first-half try by Rodney Ah You and two penalties by Matthew Jarvis helped them into an 11-3 lead with just a quarter of the game remaining. The Italians rallied late on, however, and the unerring boot of Willem de Vaal brought Treviso to within touching distance during a thrilling finale.

Duly, Connacht held out to register the victory that their previous play had so richly merited, with Frank Murphy, Tiernan O'Halloran and Mike McCarthy all outstanding in their efforts.

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GOLF: Ireland's Rory McIlroy will be determined to make amends for three years ago and climb to the very summit of this year's Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

Two bogeys near the end of his round spoiled the US Open champion's chance of ending the third day tied on 14-under par with Welshman Jamie Donaldson (65). Instead McIlroy -- who carded a 67 for a 12-under tally -- now has World No 2 Lee Westwood (64) on 13-under par between himself and leader Donaldson.

McIlroy lost the event in a play-off three years ago and if he should make amends he will move to No 3 in the world behind Westwood. Dublin's Peter Lawrie (69) is next best of the Irish at eight-under and two clear of British Open champion Darren Clarke (69).

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Cricket: There is another All- Ireland final today, this one a hundred miles to the north of Croke Park. The final of the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup may lack the glamour of Liam MacCarthy, but it will be fought no less intensely.

Waringstown meet in the first all-NCU final for 20 years, and will hope to be the first winners from the union since North Down in 1995. It ends a period of Dublin dominance that has seen nine wins this decade. The game divides the staff room at Grosvenor High School, with Andrew White of Instonians hoping to get one over on his boss Kyle McCallan.

The sides have met three times this season and Waringstown have won them all, but are today missing their overseas professional Obus Pienaar.

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ATHLETICS: Clare-born Sean Hehir -- competing for Rathfarnham AC -- won the Irish road race title in Waterford yesterday when he romped home ahead of the big field to take the Woodies DIY half-marathon championship gold medal.

The 26-year-old had all the answers when it came to the crunch and arrived home in 65 minutes 24 seconds, more than a minute clear of Kilkenny's Brian Mahor, the silver medallist in 66:40 with Alan O'Shea from Bantry third in 66:50.

The women's title was won impressively with Eva Hutchinson, the national cross-country champion from DSD, winning by a margin of 62 seconds in 74:30 from Danielle O'Neill of North Belfast AC. In all over 800 runners took part.

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LADIES FOOTBALL: Ulster champions Monaghan produced a devastating final quarter to defeat Kerry 4-15 to 2-12 in yesterday's TG4 All-Ireland SFC semi-final to set up a final meeting with Cork on September 25.

Monaghan had led by eight points at one stage in the first half but gritty Kerry kept chipping away and were ahead by a point twice in the second half.

But ultimately, it was a run of 2-5 without reply which sealed the deal for the Farney County. Caoimhe Mohan's late brace of goals, in the 48th and 55th minute, provided Monaghan with the breathing space they craved and shellshocked Kerry had no answer down the home straight.

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WESTMEATH overturned a five-point half-time deficit to seal a 1-10 to 1-7 win over Limerick in yesterday's TG4 All-Ireland IFC semi-final to set up a September 25 final meeting with Cavan at Croke Park.

Westmeath, who were 0-3 to 1-5 down at the interval, upped the ante after half time and outscored their opponents by 1-7 to 0-2. Limerick were over-reliant on forward Dymphna O'Brien, who scored 1-6, all but one point of her side's tally.

But in the second half, with Limerick trailing by just a point at the time, 1-5 to 1-6, O'Brien received a harsh yellow card and spent ten minutes in the sin bin.

In that time, Westmeath scored four unanswered points to move into a 1-10 to 1-5 lead and went on to seal victory.

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CYCLING: Ireland's Daniel Martin and Nicolas Roche finished 16th and 22nd respectively on stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana yesterday. Those results leave Roche 15th in the overall standings and Martin 21st. Estonia's Rein Taaramae took a solo victory in the stage while Briton Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead.

Second behind Cofidis rider Taaramae on the mountainous, 175km stage was Juan Jose Cobo of Spain, who was 25 seconds back, with his Geox teammate and compatriot David De La Fuente in third. Wiggins, who took fifth, made a stubborn defence of his overall lead on the second of three high mountain stages. The race ends on September 11 in Madrid.

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ROWING: Another stunning performance by Ireland's Paralympic-class adaptive coxed four earned them a place in today's A final at the World Championships in Slovenia.

Anna-Marie McDaid, Sarah Caffrey, Shane Ryan and Kevin du Toit are coxed by Helen Arbuthnot and reached the final last year in New Zealand. But unlike other nations in this emerging Paralympic sport the Irish line-up has remained constant, giving them the edge in yesterday's semi-final.

Germany made the early pace with Ireland hanging on to their shoulder, and the two crews crossed the line with less than a length separating their bow balls.

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HANDBALL: Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy is the new M Donnelly All-Ireland 60x30 senior singles champion after he sensationally defeated holder and eight-time champion Eoin Kennedy in the All-Ireland final at Abbeylara yesterday.

Having lost to Kennedy in the previous two finals, 24-year-old McCarthy made no mistake this time around, taking the opening set 21-19 and the second 21-13 in an exciting final.

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