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Ireland claims St Pat's victory

VOLLEYBALL: A packed Trinity College hall saw the Irish women's team beat Northern Ireland in the annual St Patrick's Day International match.

The new-look Irish squad includes seven players promoted from the successful junior squad, among them captain Edel Nolan, setter Regina Halpin and sisters Heather and Regina Clancy. Providing experience are liberos Jenny King and Clodagh Doherty, opposite Leanne Dignam and wing Sharon Lee.

From the start, the Republic were on top, controlling the opening exchanges and racing to an 11-2 lead in the first set. Northern Ireland fought back, but conceded the set 18-25. With the nerves settling, the second set provided some of the best exchanges of the match, although the Republic always had the edge and went two sets ahead at 25-22.

A lapse in concentration from the Republic allowed the Northerners back into the match in the third where they went from eight points down to lead at 23-22 and then closed out the set.

For the fourth set, coach Wim Roosenburg re-shuffled the team and the Republic went on to win the set 25-21 and take the match.

The two Irish teams are grouped together for the European Small Nations Championships in June, along with Malta, Cyprus and host nation Scotland.

"We've a lot of work to do before June, but we have great team spirit and I'm pleased with the aggression we showed today," said captain Edel Nolan.

FENCING: Stephen Concannon, the top-ranked sabre fencer in the country, duly won the inaugural Leinster Sabre League on the Elite 8 finals night in the Liffey Trust Building, Dublin.

Concannon had a walkover in the quarter-final when David Barker pulled out with illness. He beat Michalis Kirimlidis 15 hits to 12 in the semi-finals and then faced Chris Mooney in the final.

The match proved close, with aggressive play from both players before Concannon pulled away for a 15-11 victory. On his side of the draw, Mooney had beaten Maddie Siegmund – the only woman competing – and John McCabe.

"It's very hard to train if you don't have an objective and so we started this league last October to give fencers more competition over the winter," said Concannon, who is favourite to win the men's sabre title at this weekend's National Fencing Championships in NUI Maynooth.

HOCKEY: Match of the weekend sees men's Pool A table-toppers Three Rock Rovers facing a third-placed Lisnagarvey side that still entertain hopes of making the finals weekend on April 5/6. In Pool B, Banbridge and Monkstown are dominating.

Of the women's teams, UCD and Railway Union look certain to qualify from Pool A, while in Pool B, Pegasus are on maximum points, with Loreto and Old Alexandra battling it out for the second qualifying spot. Loreto play Ballymoney away today while Old Alex are at home to Cork Harlequins.

TAEKWONDO: After competing in the qualifying tournament for the Youth Olympic Games earlier this week, Jack Woolley of South Dublin Taekwondo hopes to take a medal for Ireland in the -48kg class at the WTF World Junior Championships in Taipei.

In 2013, Woolley took gold at the World Youth Sports Festival in Vienna, to the delight of his coach Robert Taaffe. Last month, Woolley made the -48kg final at the Trelleborg Open in Sweden, and despite fracturing his arm, finished out the match and took silver.

SNOOKER: Martin McCrudden from Celbridge won the sixth RIBSA Premier Tour ranking event last weekend, beating Rodney Goggins of the 147 Club in Wexford 4-3 in a thrilling final. Goggins, along with Irish No 1 Robert Murphy, former pro Michael Judge and Jason Devaney are in Romania this week for the European Team Championships.

TABLE TENNIS: An Irish men's team of Paul McCreery, Gavin Maguire, Ashley Robinson and Ryan Farrell travel to Tokyo next month for the World Team Championships, where they will play in the third division. First up is Mexico, followed by Latvia, Kuwait, Guatamala and Chile.