Best close to return for Rovers

IRELAND international Leon Best says he's almost ready to make a return to action following injury and finally make his first-team debut for Blackburn Rovers.

Best has been sidelined since the summer as he suffered a broken leg in a pre-season game for Rovers, just after he had joined the Championship side from Newcastle United, but he's making good progress.

"It has been a long time coming; it feels great to be back and it is just a matter of being fit now," he said.

"It feels good. I need to get my fitness up for a game. Maybe a few 20 minutes here and there in a reserve game or two and then back in the first team. I will be breathing down their necks soon enough."

U19s post Czech win

PAUL Doolin's Ireland U19 side started their year with a creditable 2-1 win over the Czech Republic, with St Patrick's Athletic midfielder Ryan Coombes highly instrumental in the victory at Flancare Park, Longford.

The Saints player scored the opener on 27 minutes, after he prodded home from six yards to finish off a Paul George cross.

Ireland grabbed their second five minutes before the break. Coombes sprayed a pass wide for Mikey Drennan, whose cross landed perfectly for Kenny McEvoy to power a header past Josef Rehnak.

Steven Smith's rash challenge on Jan Shejbal seven minutes after the restart earned the Czechs a penalty, with Frantisek Liska converting the rebound after Ian Lawlor saved.

The countries will meet again tomorrow at Lissywollen Stadium in Athlone (kick-off 1.0pm) for the second instalment of the double-header as Ireland continue preparations for the UEFA elite-stage qualifiers in June.