| 16°C Dublin

irish squad a smash hit

VOLLEYBALL: After battling performances at the qualifiers for the European Small Nations Championships in Malta, the Irish women's team is confident it can make the second round next time.

The team, captained by Claire Treacy, was one or two points away from a breakthrough in all four of its matches. The highlight was a two-hour marathon against Liechtenstein, which Ireland lost in the tie-breaking fifth set, winning them a standing ovation from the crowd. Tellingly, this match was their third of the tournament, when the team was well warmed up and could handle the heat of the hall.

Although they lost their final match to Scotland the next morning, the team can look forward to the next campaign in two years' time, when they can call on members of an exceptional Irish junior women's squad as back-up.

BADMINTON: Chloe Magee and Scott Evans will fine-tune their preparations for the London Games at the White Knights Badminton Challenge in Gatchina, Russia, starting next Wednesday.

Magee is seeded at No 2 for the women's singles behind Swedish player Larisa Griga. With brother Sam, Magee is also seeded at No 2 for the mixed doubles.

In the men's singles, Scott Evans, seed No 5, is scheduled to face second seed Ville Lang of Finland in the quarter-finals. Evans and Sam Evans will also turn out in the men's doubles where they play Russian pair Vasily Belevantsev and Maxim Popinov their opening match.

CANOEING: Andrzej Jezierski from Co Cork, who has qualified for the London Olympics, finished fifth in the men's C1 final at the European Sprint Canoeing Championships in Zagreb. In a solid Irish team performance, Jenny Egan was eighth in the women's K1 5,000m final and ninth in the K1 500m B final, while her Salmon Leap clubmate Barry Watkins was second in the men's K1 500m B final. Seán Marchetti and Val Peirce were ninth in the K2 200m B final.

In Denmark, Neil Fleming of Celbridge Paddlers produced the best performance of his career to finish second at the Marathon World Cup.

Slalom paddlers were in Cardiff for their World Cup, where Ciaran Heurteau finished 23rd after making the semi-finals, while Hannah Craid failed to progress from the heats, finishing 34th.

TRIATHLON: London-bound triathlete Aileen Morrison finished 14th at the Kitzbuhel World Series event in Austria -- her final race before the Olympics. Morrison now heads for three weeks of high altitude in Spain to put the finishing touches to her Olympic preparations.

Locally, Bryan Keane won the 28th edition of the aptly-named Hell of the West Triathlon, organised by the Limerick club in Kilkee. Nearly 700 competitors took to the waters of Kilkee Bay, with Keane, in his first Olympic distance triathlon for almost a year, taking an early lead on the swim.

On the bike stage, he lost out to Nenagh Tri Club's Shane Scully, with Cork veteran Trevor Woods, Setanta's Bryan McCrystal and Bjorn Luddick of ActiveMultisport close behind.

About halfway through the run, Keane overtook Scully and went on to win the race by a distance. Scully was a clear second with McCrystal winning the battle for third place. T3's Jennifer O'Connell was first woman, beating Vanessa Fenton and Limerick Tri Club's Andree Walkin.