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Stars out west for final fling

SNOOKER: More than 40m TV viewers worldwide will tune in when Ireland hosts the world's top snooker stars in Galway over the St Patrick's Day weekend.

The Players' Tour Championship finals - snooker's version of the Champions League - will be held in the Bailey Allen Hall at NUI Galway, from tomorrow until Sunday.

World number one Mark Selby, world champion John Higgins, UK champion Judd Trump, Masters champion Neil Robertson, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ireland's Fergal O'Brien are among those appearing.

Ireland fought off stiff competition from cities in Thailand, the UK and Malta to host the finals.

Harte key for Irish

HOCKEY: Irish keeper Davy Harte will play an instrumental role for Ireland as his team looks to extend their unbeaten run at the Electric Ireland Olympic qualifying competition in Belfield tonight (6.0).

The classy netman was largely a spectator during weekend wins over Russia (6-1) and Ukraine (12-0).

But world sixth-ranked Korea represent a step up in class that will test the Ballinspittle man. A win for Ireland would practically guarantee them a spot in Sunday's final if they follow up with a win on Thursday against Chile, who have yet to win a point.

Big relief for Nevin

BOXING: John Joe Nevin's broken jaw left him fearing the worst - that he would miss competing in his second Olympic Games.

He fractured his jaw fighting for Paris United in the World Series of Boxing.

The Irish elite champion picked up the injury in an accidental clash of heads in the opening 30 seconds of his fight with Branimir Stankovic.

"I'll have to give up sparring and boxing for four or five weeks. I should be fine after that. It was a worry. To miss the Olympic Games would be heartbreaking," he said.

Ireland lose opener

CRICKET: Ireland's bid to reach the finals of the World Twenty20 took a blow today when they lost their opening game in the qualifying tournament in Dubai.

Namibia reached 160 for eight in their innings and Ireland responded with 156 for nine in their 20 overs, falling short by four runs.

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