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Irish seeking Sochi berths

WINTER OLYMPICS: With the Olympics at Sochi only a few weeks away, Ireland still has hopes of sending a small team.

In the giant slalom skiing events, Conor Lyne, Victoria Bell and Kristen Sweeney have been chasing qualification points on the international circuit, as has cross-country skier Jan Rossiter.

US-born snowboarder Seamus O'Connor is aiming to qualify in the half-pipe discipline, while in skeleton sledding, Sean Greenwood hopes to continue Ireland's distinguished record in this discipline, with Clifton Wrottesley finishing fourth in 2002 and Pat Shannon 25th in Vancouver four years ago.

Greenwood was ranked 37th in the world at the end of last season and most recently, finished 17th in the first World Cup event of the season at Calgary. Since 1992, an Irish team has competed every year except 1994 at the Winter Olympics.

BADMINTON: Sian Williams provided one of the good news stories of the year when she paired up with Pam Peard to win the W50 doubles title at the World Masters Championships in Ankara, Turkey last September.

Just three years earlier, Welsh-born Williams, a long-time Irish resident, was told that a damaged hip could end her long and successful career.

After some research, she headed for Birmingham where she underwent an innovative hip resurfacing procedure pioneered by surgeon Derek McMinn. Months of rehabilitation followed, starting with cycling and swimming and then moving into the gym, before a return to the badminton courts.

So successful was the procedure that within a year, Williams was back winning a number of national masters titles with Peard and then taking silver at the All-England Masters. At the world championships, the pair narrowly beat the top seeds in a tense three-setter to win the title.

"That really was the highlight of my career. To win a world title is one thing but to come back from a serious hip operation made it extra special," says Williams.

VOLLEYBALL: After the holiday break, league action resumes next weekend when Naas Cobras must beat Santry away if they are to keep their hopes of a first league title alive.

Naas are currently second on the table behind DVC on count back and have a game in hand. DVC play a Trinity team that is always capable of springing a surprise, while UCD face Tallaght Rockets. In the men's premier league, Ballymun Patriots have already defeated their closest rivals UCD and are the only unbeaten side this season. They play NUIG Alliance next Saturday, while the Ballymun B team face Amber Coast. A day later, Aer Lingus play Garda.

SNOOKER: Cork's Crucible Club is the venue next weekend for the second National RIBSA Under-19 and Under-21 Cue School, with places on Irish international teams at stake.

A team of four for the European Under 21 Championships in Romania next March will be selected after the weekend.

In Dublin, the second half of the Dublin Billiards and Snooker Leagues resumes on Tuesday evening.

Darcy McGee is currently top both premier and division one tables. The Darcy's A team led by Stephen Reddington, plays a Terry Rogers A team that includes Martin McCrudden and Keith Sheldreck, while the B team plays Glenalbyn.

TENNIS: David Gardiner toppled top seed Osgar Ó hOisín to win the M18 title at the David Lloyd National Junior Indoor Tennis Championships in Dublin's Clonskeagh.

No 2 seed Coilin MacNamara had been forced to retire in the quarter-finals.

In the W18 final, there were no surprises when top seed Laura Deegan beat the No 2, Ruth Copas, in straight sets.

Upset of the tournament came in the W16 draw, where the No 1, Katie Kirby went out in the quarter-finals. In the final, Laura Fitzgerald, who had put out Eimear Maher, beat Anna Bowtell for the title. Sean Collins won the M16 title, beating top seed Sam O'Kelly in straight sets.


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