CRICKET: Ireland have responded cautiously to the announcement of sweeping reforms by the International Cricket Council after a board meeting in Singapore early yesterday, writes Ger Siggins.
ICC trumpeted that it was "breaking the glass ceiling" which had barred the entry of the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan from playing Test cricket.
It announced that "the winner of the next ICC Intercontinental Cup will be entitled to take part in a play-off against the bottom-ranked full member and, if successful, obtain Test status." Ireland has won four of the last five Intercontinental Cups.
"The statement isn't radically different to the original proposal," Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom told the Sunday Independent. "It copperfastens the principle that the leading associate plays the lowest ranked full member. But what it doesn't make clear is whether the Intercontinental Cup will include Zimbabwe and Bangladesh or not. The long-term benefits are that it could bring us closer to our long term goal of playing Test cricket."
The meeting, which formalised the power-grab by the "big 3" of India, Australia and England, also promised "enhanced support" for the leading associates "if revenue targets are achieved."
"Our current expectations are of around $16-17m in the next funding period," Deutrom explained. "But with Zimbabwe likely to receive $75-76m there's a danger that a large competitive gap could open up. We trust the gap will not be as wide as that between teams ranked so closely together."
The meeting also cancelled the proposed World Test Championship but replaced it with a biennial Champions Trophy which will be open to the top eight ranked ODI countries. Ireland currently lies 11th.
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Ireland finally came good in the last match of the West Indies Super50 competition, beating defending champions the Windward Islands by 64 runs in Trinidad..
On a pitch giving assistance to the spinners, Niall O'Brien hit a battling 44 and Stuart Thompson totalled 32 as Ireland were all out for 179, the third time they failed to bat out their overs.
Thompson struck early, removing West Indies star Johnston Charles, before George Dockrell, winning his 101st cap, took 3-14 off seven. Andrew Poynter mopped up the tail with his first wickets for Ireland in his 47th game, returning 2-11 as the Windwards collapsed for 115.
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GAELIC GAMES: Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice guided Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne to a 1-13 to 2-7 win over Colaiste Chriost Ri in yesterday's Munster Colleges Corn Ui Mhuiri quarter-final.
The Kerry college had previously won the tie, but because of a black card error Chriost Ri appealed the result and both sides were ordered to meet again. However, it was the same result as Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne came from three points down with 10 minutes to play to force extra-time.
Chriost Ri looked to be in the driving seat in the extra period, but they failed to capitalise and two Cathal O Bambaire points were followed by a Chorca Dhuibhne goal from Maitiu O Flatharta and a late Tom O Suilleabhain point to set up an all-Kerry semi-final with St Brendan's, Killarney in two weeks.
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HOCKEY: Irish under-21 men's coach Jonny Caren will have come away impressed yesterday after the penultimate stage of the three-day series of matches at Grange Road as he seeks to finalise his squad selection for this week's Four Nations under-21 tournament in Newtownabbey.
Ulster won the men's title in their decider with Leinster 1-0, with Owen Magee's second-half strike clinching victory. It was good preparation for the Irish players who will be taking on Germany, with England and Scotland also competing.
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GOLF: South Africans Thomas Aiken and Justin Walters blitzed through the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club course to take a joint third-round lead at the Joburg Open yesterday.
The pair are two shots ahead of the chasing pack after five birdies on the back nine helped Aiken to the day's lowest round of 63 and a 54-hole total of 198.
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WINTER OLYMPICS: Irish snowboarder Seamus O'Connor missed out on a place in the final of the first ever Olympic slopestyle event after he finished ninth out of 20 starters at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
The 16-year-old was nevertheless delighted with his efforts, which saw him land his first ever triple on his final jump.
Meanwhile, Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal on offer at the Sochi Olympics in the inaugural men's slopestyle competition yesterday as Norway's Marit Bjoergen won the women's 15km Skiathlon.
Sven Kramer led a Dutch sweep of the medals in the men's 5,000m speedskating event, while Ole Einar Bjoerndalen stamped his authority by winning the biathlon sprint to claim a record-equalling 12th Winter Games medal.
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Basketball: Neptune consolidated third spot in the Men's Premier League as they upstaged Cork rivals Demons with an 84-78 win at the Neptune Stadium last night.
Demons' defeat (they led by 19 points at one stage in the third quarter) is significant in that it allows Killester the chance to join them at the top should they win away to Star this afternoon.
Michael McGinn's nine steals proved decisive as Neptune turned over their opponents after the break with both Darren Townes and under-20 star Roy Downey registering big baskets.
And while Kyle Hosford was to hit two outside shots to keep Demons within shooting distance, indiscipline from the visitors was to see both Lehmann Colbert and player coach Colin O'Reilly fouled out in the final quarter. In the other half of the table there were wins for home sides Dublin Inter and Moycullen over Marian and Templeogue respectively.