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Kovalainen hits top spot

MOTORSPORT: McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen seized the first pole position of his Formula One career at the British Grand Prix yesterday.

The 26-year-old Finn left his rivals trailing with a lap of one minute 21.049 seconds, more than half a second quicker than second-placed Australian Mark Webber under grey skies at Silverstone.

Kimi Raikkonen qualified third with Lewis Hamilton, Kovalainen's McLaren team-mate, fourth. Brazil's championship leader Felipe Massa was only ninth for Ferrari, with his closest rival Robert Kubica 10th for BMW-Sauber.

Irish pair can make history

ROWING: History will be in the making today at Henley Royal Regatta where two Irish scullers will compete in the men's and women's finals for the first time in the 179 year history of the world's most prestigious rowing event.

When Caroline Ryan won yesterday's semi-final it put her within sight of becoming the first ever Irishwoman to win at Henley.

Sculling into a blustery headwind on the River Thames the Garda athlete drew steadily ahead to a six-length win over Annelies Labots of the Netherlands. Ryan now meets Mathilde Pauls in today's final.

And, as Sean Jacob won his semi-final in the men's singles with an easy verdict ahead of Britain's Nathan Reilly-O'Donnell, he can become the first Irish winner in the Henley sculling event since Sean Drea in 1975 if successful in today's final.

Gill on form to boost Galway

CAMOGIE: Reigning champions Wexford slumped to a second successive defeat in this year's Gala All-Ireland senior camogie championship as the prolific Jessica Gill fired Galway to within touching distance of the semi-finals yesterday.

Gill put Wexford to the sword with a 1-9 haul as Galway ran out 1-12 to 2-4 winners at Killimor.

Meanwhile, Dublin collected their first win of the competition with a 0-16 to 1-6 success against Limerick at the home of Trinity Gaels in the capital.

Woosnam on course for win

GOLF: Ian Woosnam will have high hopes of landing an eastern European double after carding a second successive five-under-par 67 to move into a two-shot lead over Scotland's Bill Longmuir in the Pestovo Russian Seniors Open.

Woosnam won his first European Seniors Tour title at the Parkridge Polish Seniors Open in Krakow and can win for a second time after another superb round finishing 10-under-par 134.

Woosnam goes into the final round today two shots ahead of Longmuir, who posted a 69 for 136, and three in front of Sam Torrance, who scored an eight-under-par 64 to finish on seven-under par 137.

Valverde seals opening stage

CYCLING: Spaniard Alejandro Valverde of the Caisse d'Epargne team won the first stage of the Tour de France, a 197.5-km ride from Brest to Plumelec yesterday.

Valverde beat Belgium's Philippe Gilbert of the Francaise des Jeux team and France's Jerome Pineau of Bouygues Telecom to take the overall leader's yellow jersey in an uphill finish.

The 28-year-old Spaniard also took the green jersey for the best sprinter.

Valverde is one of the favourites to win the Tour, along with Australian Cadel Evans, who finished sixth.

Ken begins life on the fringes

SNOOKER: Former world champion Ken Doherty will begin life on the fringes of the world's elite in next month's Lucan Racing Irish Snooker Classic at Celbridge Snooker club.

Teenage prodigy David Morris from Kilkenny will be eager to defend the title he won last year when Doherty was marked absent.

Now ranked outside the top 16 for the first time in 15 years following his shock first round world championship exit, the Ranelagh man will be anxious to kick off his season in style.

Details: August 2-3, Celbridge Snooker Club (free entry all welcome)

Smeets takes Irish Open

TENNIS: Robert Smeets blistering leftie serve proved vital as he powered past Frederik Nielsen to win the men's singles title in the Shelbourne ATP Irish Open Challenger at Fitzwilliam.

The 23-year-old, No 6 seed garnered a host of points delivering the ball to the backhand of his opponent and fittingly on the final point he unleashed an ace in this fashion for a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory.

Madrid agony for Gillick

ATHLETICS: An injury resulted in David Gillick making a last-minute decision not to compete in the 400 metres as planned in the EAA meeting in Madrid.

There was better news of Paul McKee as he won the B 400m in 46.55 seconds.

Celts to battle down to wire

HOCKEY: Ireland's men face a battle to win the Celtic Cup when they take on Wales today after their 2-2 draw yesterday with Scotland. France and the Welsh are still in contention just one point adrift.

Ireland led 2-0 at the break after Tim Lewis and John Jermyn hit the target but Scotland levelled through Wei Adams and Adam McKenzie.

In the women's event Ireland along with Scotland will be vying for the trophy after their 1-1 draw yesterday where Holly Cram put the Scots in front only for Eimear Cregan to equalise.