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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 28 May, 2020

MANCHESTER CITY boss Roberto Mancini has confirmed that Manchester City would be willing to break the British transfer record to buy Fernando Torres, if the Spaniard decides to leave Liverpool. ‘Pool value Torres at £70m and other clubs have struggled to meet that valuation.

ROBBIE KEANE has been told he could play a major role in Tottenham’s coming season by boss Harry Redknapp.

The Ireland captain – who was loaned out to Celtic for the second half of last season, having become a bit part in Spurs’ successful bid to qualify for the Champions’ League – had been linked with a permanent move north of the border.

But the Tottenham boss says Keane has every chance of being a significant part in Tottenham’s season as they do battle on four fronts.

Redknapp had previously said that Keane, 30, would only be loaned out again if he was unhappy with the amount of time on the pitch he was being offered at White Hart Lane, and that he would only be let move full-time if another club lodged a substantial bid.

The Tallaght man will face stiff competition from the likes of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe for a starting berth this season, but has impressed in pre-season and has been told he could start in Spurs’ first game of the season.

Keane scored in Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Sporting Lisbon yesterday, following up his goal against the New York Red Bulls (a game in which Thierry Henry scored on his debut) on Thursday.

Redknapp said Keane “looked sharp and bright – and he is still very much in the plans.

“He wants to start every game and if he keeps playing as he did today, he can do… there is every chance he could start.”

Meanwhile, international exile Stephen Ireland has been told to consider a move away from Manchester City after being warned he might not make Roberto Mancini’s final 25-man Premier League squad.

TIPPERARY have set up a Munster grudge match with Waterford in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship after beating Galway by a single point in an absolute thriller at Croke Park.

Lar Corbett’s injury time point was enough to clinch victory for Tipp, 3-17 to 3-16, after a thrilling encounter which saw the sides level nine times.

Tipp took an early 0-4 to 0-1 lead before Galway’s Eanna Ryan brilliantly levelled with the first of the game’s six goals – though Tipp responded shortly afterward with Eoin Kelly restoring the lead of three.

The Tribesmen put together six straight points to go three ahead, before a brief 1-2 from Tipp – capped with a Seamus Callanan goal – put the Premier in front at half time.

Galway opened the second half with a magnificent Damien Hayes goal, but Gearoid Ryan responded to leave Tipp ahead by three, with Corbett pushing the lead to four.

But when Joe Canning was fouled on the hour, he buried the penalty himself – and points from Damien Hayes (2), Kevin Hynes and sub Aengus Callanan put the Galwegians in front again, only for Tipp to turn the tide decisively with points from John O’Brien and Gearoid Ryan before Corbett’s late winner.

“I don’t know where we go from here,” Galway manager John McIntyre – a native Tipp man – admitted to RTÉ’s Sunday Game afterward, saying that his side had only been second best as a result of small breaks across the pitch.

Saying his side played as best they could, McIntyre said: ”There’s such a thin line between winning and losing. When teams lose games, there’s a perception out there that management are off the pace, that players are off the pace.”

That hadn’t been the case for Galway, he insisted. ”Jesus, this is tough,” he said, before leaving back to a disconsolate Galway dressing room.

For Tipp the summer rolls on, with a semi-final against Waterford beckoning in three weeks’ time.

In the other semi-final, Cork will face their bitterest rivals, old foes Kilkenny, in a fortnight.

FERRARI have been fined $100,000 and referred to the World Motorsport Council under charges of bringing Formula 1 into disrepute after a controversial result at the German Grand Prix. Felipe Massa led for most of the opening 48 laps but gave way to teammate Fernando Alonso, who won the race, after what seemed to be a coded message given from the pit lane. The circumstances echo a similar fix in 2002.

SPAIN’S ALBERTO CONTADOR has, in the last few minutes, clinched his third Tour de France overall victory after a largely uneventful final stage into Paris. Britain’s Mark Cavendish won the stage, leading the entire peloton in one group. Nicolas Roche comes fifteenth overall, succeeding in his pre-Tour ambition of making the top 15. As he tweeted yesterday: mission accomplished.

CORK have set up a mouthwatering All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Kilkenny in two weeks after overcoming a plucky display from a spirited Antrim side in Croke Park today, running out 1-25 to 0-19 winners. Tipperary face Galway at 4pm with the winners playing Waterford.

THE WORLD OF SNOOKER is in mourning today after one of the game’s legendary characters, two-time world champion Alex Higgins, died yesterday at the age of 61 after a long battle with cancer.

Higgins (61) was found dead in his Belfast flat yesterday after suffering multiple organ failure. He was also suffering from bronchitis because of his smoking habit.

Known as ‘The Hurricane’, Higgins was described by modern greats like Ronnie O’Sullivan as the greatest player ever to raise a cue.

“Alex Higgins was one of the real inspirations behind me getting into snooker in the first place,” O’Sullivan told the Sunday Telegraph. “He is a legend of snooker, and should forever be remembered as the finest ever snooker player.”

Six-time world champion Steve Davis also paid tribute to the Northern Irishman.

“He was a totally amazing player. I had many battles with him over the years, mostly controversial ones! But he brought so much to the game. He will be sorely missed,” he said.

Fellow Northerener and former world champion Dennis Taylor added: “I don’t think you’ll ever, ever see another player in the game of snooker like the great Alex Higgins.”

Users on’s Snooker & Pool forum called Higgins “a true legend of the game”, “an enigma” and “a great entertainer of the game”.

CORK have qualified for the All-Ireland football quarter-finals – but needed extra time to get over a fiercely competitive Limerick team before running out 0-16 to 1-11 winners. Down have mauled Sligo by 3-20 to 0-10 to join them there, alongside Kildare and Dublin.

KILDARE AND DUBLIN have booked their places in the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. Kildare started slowly but eventually overcame Monaghan by 1-15 to 1-11, while Dublin – still not without their flaws – earned a 2-14 to 0-13 over out-of-sorts Louth. Limerick host Cork while Sligo face off against Down this evening in the other two Round 4 games.

A HIGH-PROFILE Australian boxing match turned into a complete washout when one of the fighters – who had been in retirement for three years – was floored (?) by the first punch, and counted out after just 30 seconds. Unsurprisingly, bookies reckon the fight was rigged.

MANCHESTER UNITED chief executive David Gill has confirmed that Nemanja Vidic has agreed a contract extension – and that he is confident Wayne Rooney will follow suit by confirming to stay at Old Trafford.

Vidic had been persistently linked with moves abroad in recent years, with Real Madrid named as a constant destination, while there had also been longstanding rumours that the Serb’s wife had not settled in Manchester and wanted to move.

United have confirmed an oral agreement with the defender that commits his long-term future to the club, however, and he has agreed to sign when he returns from holiday in a few weeks’ time.

With Rio Ferdinand still overcoming the injury that ruled him out of the World Cup, on the back of a longstanding back problem, Vidic’s commitment to remain at the club is a welcome development for United.

Rooney, like Vidic, has two years left to run on his current contract and now the focus has turned to him, with United desperate to retain control over the player who scored 34 goals for them last term.

Gill told the club station MUTV that he hope to “meet with Wayne and his advisors when we’re back from tour, and he’s back from holiday, with a view to sorting out a new deal for him.

“It’s clear from what he has said, and what the club have said, that both parties are very keen to sort things out and secure his long-term future at United.”

The developments come just four days after manager Sir Alex Ferguson declared himself happy with the current squad, and ruling out any transfer activity for the rest of the summer.

THE FRENCH NATIONAL soccer coach has suspended the 23 players  who played in the World Cup for the country’s next game. The mass suspension is a punishment for their poor World Cup performance.

The team exited the tournament after the first round, along with countries including South Africa, New Zealand and the Ivory Coast.

Laurent Blanc was recently appointed coach in place of Raymond Domenech. Just before their last game in the World Cup, the French players had boycotted a team training session in support of striker Nicolas Anelka who was sent home during the competition for insulting Domenech.

Doubts had already hung over the inclusion of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema in the squad after they were recently issued preliminary charges for allegedly soliciting an under-age prostitute.

The suspension smacks a little of the short-sightedness that marked the Nigerian team’s return home. Their president banned the team from competing for two years after they were knocked out of the World Cup, but later recanted after coming under fire from FIFA.

WITH JUST TWELVE TEAMS left in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and only half as many still in with a chance in the hurling equivalent, this weekend’s action will really sort the men from the minors.

Sunday sees a Croke Park hurling triple-bill with both of this year’s senior All-Ireland Quarter Finals taking place, being preceded by the meeting of Waterford and Galway in the equivalent round of the minor series.

Galway against Tipperary, at 4pm, will be the star attraction of the day, however, with the All-Ireland draw having thrown together the two beaten provincial finalists in the same do-or-die encounter.

With the Back Door now sealed there are no more chances for either side, with the losers of the quarter-finals bowing out of the championship for another year.

The winners of the Galway and Tipp clash will meet Munster champions Waterford, who many will see as the easier of the two semi-final options with Kilkenny – just two games from five straight All-Irelands – awaiting in the other side.

They will meet the winners of Sunday’s second game, between Cork and surprise packages Antrim (2pm). The Saffrons have done brilliantly to get this far – it’s their best championship performance since 2004.

Sadly, on that occasion they were foiled by Sunday’s opponents, who destroyed them 2-26 to 0-10, and most will expect a similar routing as Cork aim to be the ones who stop their greatest rivals, Kilkenny, from creating history.

Cork are still without Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Jerry O’Connor, but the Rebels should still have more than enough to put the brakes on Ulster’s ongoing quest for a first-ever All-Ireland hurling title.

No third chances for eight football qualifiers

Saturday sees the four Round 4 football matches, which – like in the hurling – offer the last chance for the participating teams with the safety net of a back door now definitely removed.

Pick of the round will be the meeting of Dublin and Louth in Headquarters at 5pm, where the Leinster Champions from the last six years face off against the side many believe to be their rightful successors.

Louth haven’t beaten Dublin in twelve meetings since 1973, however, and having dispatched with Armagh last week, many will expect the Metropolitans to dismiss the Wee County – though, with many seeing Louth as Leinster’s best team right now, a shock is possible.

Monaghan and Kildare meet beforehand at 3pm, with the Lilywhites on good form after disposing of Antrim, Leitrim and Derry in successive Saturdays, while Monaghan were taken apart by Tyrone in the Ulster decider last weekend.

Sligo meet Down in Kingspan Breffni Park at 7pm, with both sides out to prove their worth after disappointing weekends. Having beaten Galway and Mayo, Sligo were expected to claim provincial honours only to be scuppered by Roscommon, while Down were patchy at best in overcoming Offaly.

Cork visit Limerick in the last of the games at 7pm, with the home side seeking revenge for last year’s Munster final when the Rebels scuppered Limerick’s bid to win their first Munster title since 1896.

Cork, though having beaten Wexford with ease last week, were not without their flaws and Limerick – having pushed Kerry all the way in their second successive Munster final defeat – will feel they can triumph.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER says he will drive for Mercedes in next year’s Formula 1 season because he is still hungry for another world championship title, the BBC reports.

The seven-time drivers’ championship winner returned to F1 this year after three years in retirement.

He contemplated a return for Ferrari last year after their driver Felipe Massa was seriously injured during the Hungarian Grand Prix. A neck and back injury prevented him from being fit in time to stand in, though.

Paddy Power gave Schumacher odds of 8/1 to win the championship when he announced his return for 2010, but this season hasn’t gone smoothly for the German. He had yet to score a podium finish.

Lewis Hamilton, who leads the drivers’ championship, is 109 points ahead of Schumacher.

Schumacher, 41, has a good record at the German Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend at Hockenheim, having won the race four times. Practice for Sunday’s race begins tomorrow.

WE’VE BEEN CURSING Thierry Henry ever since THAT incident. There’s always been hope that he’d get his comeuppance, and certainly France’s premature exit from the World Cup was some satisfaction, but is it enough?

Today at The, we can reveal footage from the future that shows what will happen to Henry when he reaches the pearly gates of Heaven.

The Late Thierry Henry

ALEX FERGUSON has blamed England’s poor World Cup performance on the lack of a winter break in the Premier League season.

Sir Alex said that the FA is handicapping the English team by making them play without a break mid-season, the Guardian reports.

Ferguson has previously called for a January holiday from matches. He says demands from television schedules are forcing players to endure a longer season, which is taking a toll on England’s chances. Players who pick up injuries in the first half of the season don’t have enough time to rest up and recover before being back on the pitch.

Man United will start their pre-season warm-up by playing Philadelphia Union in the US this evening. Three hundred and eighty games are played during the Premiership season, and the first games of the 2010/11 season will kick-off on 14 August.

The Red Devils’ first game is against Newcastle on 16 August.

Ferguson recently said he’d turned down the opportunity to manage the England team on more than one occasion as he considers the job a “poisoned chalice”.

Perhaps it was seeing team mate Brian O’Driscoll tie the knot earlier this month, or maybe it’s all that summer sunshine. But something must have prompted team-mate Leo Cullen to follow Drico’ once again, and this time it’s up the aisle.

The 32 year-old Leinster Rugby captain popped the question to his long time girlfriend Dairine Kennedy, over the weekend.

Dairine works in sales for Google in Dublin and the two were often spotted out together in Dublin’s top night spots. The Newtownmountkennedy man and the gorgeous Dairine are hoping for a summer wedding and the bride to be is said to “thrilled” with the news.

LIVERPOOL have completed the signing of midfielder Joe Cole after he passed his medical.

The 28-year-old agreed personal terms on Monday after being released by Chelsea at the end of last season. He then flew to Switzerland to join his team mates at a training camp in Bad Ragaz, where he also underwent a medical.

Cole  will don the number 10 shirt and not the 7 shirt as previously reported. Liverpool legends Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish have worn the shirt in the pass.

Steven Gerrard also committed to the club this morning. He told the Liverpool Echo: “I wanted the chance to meet Roy Hodgson privately and having done so, I’m very impressed with his plans for the future.

“I’ve only returned to training today at Melwood with some of the other World Cup players, but I can’t wait for the new season to start.”

Both Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have hailed Cole’s arrival, saying it’s a sign that manager Roy Hodgson is showing excellent intent and ambition ahead of the new season.

Cole’s deal is said to be worth over £18m and will see him earning £90k a week. Tottenham and Arsenal were also said to be interested in the midfielder.

THE EUROPEAN RUGBY CUP have confirmed the fixtures for the pool stages of next season’s Heineken Cup, and handed some tough assignments to the three Irish sides in the competition.

Leinster will meet the much-fancied French side Clermont Auvergne twice in a week in December, while Munster will start and finish their campaign against London Irish with fixtures against Toulon in the same weeks.

Ulster will face Bath twice in a week, though will consider themselves lucky to be given a home fixture against Magners League newcomers Aironi to kick off the campaign, and a visit to Italy on the final day.

The full set of fixtures involving Irish sides is as follows. All times are Irish:

Round 1
Friday 8 October, 2010
Ulster v Aironi, 19.30

Saturday 9 October, 2010
Leinster v Racing-Metro 92, 13.30
London Irish v Munster, 17.45

Round 2
Saturday 16 October, 2010
Munster v Toulon, 15.30
Saracens v Leinster, 17.45

Sunday 17 October, 2010
Biarritz Olympique v Ulster, 15.00

Round 3
Saturday 11 December 2010
Ulster v Bath, 13.30

Sunday 12 December, 2010
Munster v Ospreys, 13.00
Clermont Auvergne v Leinster, 15.00

Round 4
Saturday 18 December, 2010
Bath v Ulster, 13.30
Ospreys v Munster, 15.30
Leinster v Clermont Auvergne, 16:45

Round 5
Fri-Sun 14-16 January, 2011 [dates and times TBC]
Leinster v Saracens
Toulon v Munster
Ulster v Biarritz Olympique

Round 6
Fri-Sun 21-23 January, 2011 [dates and times TBC]
Racing-Metro v Leinster
Munster v London Irish
Aironi v Ulster

SIR ALEX FERGUSON has said he’s happy with the quality of his current playing squad, and won’t be likely to buy to buy in any new players before the new season.

While United have been continually linked to a myriad players over the summer, they have signed just two players: defener Chris Smalling from Fulham, and Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.

And Ferguson insists he doesn’t need to buy any more players, saying:

I cannot speak about other clubs. We are comfortable with the squad we have got… We bought players at the right time of the season and we are happy with what we have.

Ferguson has also declared himself happy with the squad’s pre-season progress – helped by the fact that most of United’s players’ national sides were eliminated early from their respective World Cup campaigns.

His comments will raise further questions about the financial security of the club, however, with Ferguson officially ‘declining’ to spend most of the £80m (€95m)  made from the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo last year.

United made just four signings last summer, with one (Michael Owen) free and three for undisclosed fees – while the club was forced to pay £62m in interest payments on its debt, which had ballooned to £716m (€847m) in January.

THE GAA has confirmed the venues and throw-in times for Round 4 of the All-Ireland football qualifiers, and for the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland hurling championship. The two hurling games, and two of the four football matches, will take place in Croke Park.

THIERRY HENRY has told an American show he believes FIFA should introduce video replays to international football.

The former French forward – who helped deny Ireland a place in the World Cup with his handball in the second leg of the play-off which set up a goal for William Gallas – made the comments to a New York webcast as part of an interview.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Dan Patrick Show, Henry acknowledged that it would save time and controversy at the top level of the game if replays were quickly consulted for goals or controversial offside decisions.

He said:

As I said to you, I do think we need to put the video [sic].

We gotta go back to the thing. To the point of… I’m not making the decisions. I think we need to put the video.

I think when the call is an important call for the game… how long would it take to watch the replay? Ten seconds?

When you look at it – when there is a controversial goal, or a controversial offside or all this kind of thing – you lose more time arguing than if you showed the replay!

Repeating his opinion that the France-Ireland World Cup playoff should have been replayed, Henry also said the words we had awaited for a full 243 days:

Again, I’ll say it – I do apologise to all the Irish fans.

Now perhaps we can move on.

LIVERPOOL have confirmed the signing of England midfielder Joe Cole on a four-year deal.

Cole – who was a free agent, having been released by Chelsea last month – has agreed personal terms and will sign for the club once he completes a medical within the next 48 hours.

Cole had been linked to Arsenal and Tottenham, both of whom will play Champions League football this year, but has opted to link up with Roy Hodgson at Anfield and content himself with the Europa League.

He is likely to be considered a direct substitute for Israeli international Yossi Benayoun, who left Anfield for Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.

Cole is Liverpool’s second signing of the summer, following Serbian striker Milan Jovanovic.

The signing will be welcomed by the club’s owners who are known to be trying to sell the club, and thus will be satisfied with the free signing.

Cole won three Premier Leagues, two FA Cups and two League Cups during his seven years with Chelsea.

RORY MCILROY was left to rue what might have been after two great closing rounds left him tied for third at the British Open in St Andrews.

McIlroy carded five birdies to record a final round of 68 and finish on -8 for the week, just one behind Lee Westwood in second – but a full seven shots behind eventual winner Louis Oosthuizen on -16.

But despite recording his best ever finish in a Major, McIlroy still lamented his horrific round on Friday, which saw him shoot an eight-over 80 just a day after a Majors record of 63 put him on -9 after day one.

“I couldn’t help but think about Friday going up the last hole there,” he said. “You know, if I had just sort of stuck in a little bit more on Friday and held it together more, it could have been a different story.”

The undoubted star of the day was Oosthuizen, however. The South African – who had only ever made the cut at a Major once before – took the lead after McIlroy’s Friday collapse and never let it go.

A final round of 71 was more than enough to see him keep charge of the leaderboard, where many had assumed the inexperienced player would squander his surplus.

“After the 12th hole it actually became difficult having such a big lead, to keep calm, and I’m glad I had those [seven spare] shots on 18 because I cramped a little with the putter,” Oosthuizen said.

US Open champions Graeme McDowell shot a final day 70 to die for 23rd on -3, with Colm Moriarty (a final day 70) and Shane Lowry (75) both lying two shots back and tying for 37th. Darren Clarke (71) was another shot back.

THE GAA has confirmed details of the next round of football qualifiers. Louth will face Dublin, Limerick play Cork, Monaghan will play Kildare and Sligo face off against Down. They’re to be played on neutral venues in two weeks. In the All-Ireland hurling quarter finals, Tipperary will play Galway; Cork face Antrim.

ROSCOMMON ARE THE new Connacht senior football champions, beating Sligo 0-14 to 0-13 in an absolute thriller in Castlebar. Tipperary have disposed of Offaly in the hurling qualifiers by 0-21 to 1-12, while Cork have steamrolled Wexford in the football qualfiers.

TYRONE HAVE BECOME the first team in 15 years to retain the Ulster Senior Football title, with a very impressive performance easily dismissing the challenge of Monaghan by 1-14 to 0-7. Colm Cavanagh scored the goal with four minutes left to put conclusive daylight between the sides.

THE THREE IRISHMEN still in action at St Andrew’s have a lot to do to get themselves near the top of the leaderboard on the final day of the British Open, as all eyes turn to the two Englishmen chasing runaway leader Louis Oosthuizen.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has birdied the fifth to get back to -1 for the week in a tie for eighth spot, though he is still a full ten shots off the leader who, at the time of writing, had just begun his final round.

His compatriot and US Open champion Graeme McDowell is a shot further back, with a respectable -3 for the day after 16, undoing some of the damage done by his less-than-satisfactory 76 yesterday.

Shane Lowry is the best of the Republic’s two remaining players, at +1 after 6 to sit at -3 for the week.

Earlier, Darren Clarke finished his week with a one-under 71 to finish the tournament on level par in a tie for 48th, while Colm Moriarty was one better with a two-under 70 in a tie for 41st.

Local eyes have turned to English pair Paul Casey and Lee Westwood, however, who represent Britain’s best chance to win the Open since Paul Lawrie won the Claret Jug in 1999.

Casey shot a 67 yesterday to add to his two rounds of 69 and lies in second, although he has dropped a shot on the second to sit five behind his playing partner and leader Oosthuizen, who leads at -15.

Westwood is three shots back behind in a four-way tie for third at -7.

Though the two English players are some way off the lead, they’ll be keen to pounce should Oosthuizen be struck by any kind of final-day nerves. The South African has only ever made the cut in a Major once before – at the US PGA in 2008.

WATERFORD won just their ninth Munster senior hurling title last night in a dramatic game that was sometimes short on quality but never on drama.

After being the stronger side for the bulk of the game in a damp Semple Stadium, Waterford found themselves unable to kill off a spirited Cork side who struck back with an extraordinary Ben O’Connor goal from at least 60 yards.

Taking a free puck, O’Connor appeared to mis-strike the ball as he shot for a point – and the ball curled crisply into the top-left corner of Clinton Hennessy’s net.

Davy Fitzgerald’s site were unable to finish the game in regular time, with Eoin Kelly missing a series of frees that would have secured the game, and the game moved into extra time as the rain worsened and the Thurles lights fired up.

But an amazing extra-time goal from substitute Dan ‘The Man’ Shanahan was enough to get the Déise over the line and secure a three point victory, coming out on top by 1-16 to 1-13.

The game finished in almost total darknses, having been held up for fifteen minutes at the start of the game. Poor advance ticket sales were countered by a substantial walk-up crowd; over 23,000 watched the occasion.

In a dryer Croke Park, Dublin’s footballers got their season back on track with a solid – though not sparkling – 0-14 to 0-11 victory against Armagh.

Bernard Brogan was the star of the show, kicking nine of Dublin’s points as the Sky Blues continue their steer through the qualifier series.

Elsewhere in the football qualifiers, a strong Kildare side recorded the county’s first ever away victory over Derry by 2-17 to 1-9, and Down overcame Offaly in a tight contest, 1-12 to 1-10.

There was less luck for Dublin’s hurlers, though, who threw away a large second-half lead to lose by a point to Antrim, who make their first All-Ireland quarter final for many years on a scoreline of 1-17 to 0-19.

DUBLIN ARE OUT of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship after squandering a big lead and losing to Antrim, 1-17 to 0-19, to  in a tit-for-tat qualifier clash in Croke Park. In football, a classy Kildare side tore Derry to shreds as they romped home by 2-17 to 1-9. Updates here.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE GAA, Christy Cooney, has insisted that the Louth fans who attacked referee Martin Sludden after last week’s Leinster final will be banned from Croke Park for life.

Gardaí are reviewing CCTV recordings and RTÉ’s footage from the aftermath of the game, which saw the referee physically attacked by angry Louth supporters and a steward hit on the head by a bottle after a dramatic defeat to Meath.

The incident revived the GAA’s pleas to fans to keep off the pitch when matches are finished.

“It is the Gardaí’s responsibility to take it [the investigations] on from here,” Cooney said. “It is out responsibility at the same time to dish out appropriate punishment to people that have belittled our association.”

Cooney refused to rule out the possibility of erecting fences around the perimeter of the pitch to keep fans off it, and said the GAA remained firmly committed to presenting the All-Ireland trophies on the pitch without fans.

“I think last Sunday was a watershed for our supporters, to see the behaviour that took place after the game. I think it has reinforced that we need to ensure patrons stay off our pitch at the end of matches.”

Conney added that he would have liked to see the controversial match replayed, but stopped short at suggesting Croke Park should take a more active role in ensuring such games would be replayed in future.

Both counties had criticised the GAA for a lack of support in the issue, but Cooney said he could not “tear up the rule book” and order replays in some games while not doing so in others.

RORY MCILROY has four under par after 16 in his third round at the British Open, and is back in a tie for tenth at -5 for the tournament. Shane Lowry was level par for the entire front nine; Darren Clarke is +1 after 8; Graeme McDowell +2 after 4. Colm Moriarty shot a par 72. Scoreboard

RORY MCILROY saw his British Open lead literally blow away yesterday – as gale force winds contributed to a horrific second round that saw him disappear from the leaderboard.

The County Down prodigy – who had shot a Majors record of 63 on the opening day – crashed to a eight-over-par second round of 80, a full 17 shots more than his round just 24 hours earlier.

On a day blighted by windy weather, which forced the organisers to suspend play when balls started to move on the green, McIlroy slipped from a two-shot lead down to a tie for 39th, though still comfortably making the cut.

McIlroy condemned the move to suspend play, saying: “The conditions hadn’t changed when we got back out there – it was probably worse!”

The contrasts were striking: on his first round McIlroy did not drop a single shot, carding an eagle and seven birdies. Yesterday, he recorded six bogeys and one double bogey – on the par-3 11th, which he had birdied on Thursday.

Northern Ireland is still well represented, however, with US Open champion Graeme McDowell in a tie for 7th on -5 – albeit a full seven shots behind the leader, Louis Oosthuizen, who managed to dodge the worst of the weather.

Darren Clarke is a further shot back on -4, tied for 14th alongside Tiger Woods with whom he will tee off today at 3:05pm.

Irish Open champ Shane Lowry is another shot back, and is paired with Vijay Singh today.

Two-time former champion Padraig Harrington has been sent home, finishing +6 after yesterday’s round and missing the cut.

MANCHESTER UNITED boss Sir Alex Ferguson has told a Canadian TV station he was twice asked to manage the England national team, but rebuffed the FA’s advances. He described it as a “poisoned chalice” – and reckoned he “had a tremendous handicap being Scottish”.

RORY MCILROY’S charge in the British Open has taken a dent as weather plays havoc with the second round. Play was suspended earlier due to excessive wind, and the Northern Irishman has dropped three shots in the first seven holes. He’s now five off the lead.

IF SHAMROCK ROVERS can beat Bnei Yehuda in next week’s Europa League second leg, they’ll win a glamour tie against giants Juventus in the final qualifying round. Sporting Fingal may face either the brilliantly-named Honka Espoo (Finland) or Bangor City (Wales).

In what must surely be a first, a cyclist was kicked off the Tour de France yesterday for headbutting a rival in a dramatic sprint finish.

Australia’s Mark Renshaw was caught rutting at New Zealander Julian Dean in the final straight, paving the way for his British team-mate Mark Cavendish to win the stage.

Race director Jean-Francois Pescheux said of the incident: ”It’s cycling not fighting. Everyone could have ended on their backs.”

Australian Renshaw nutted Julian Dean twice in the shoulder after he boxed in other riders during a sprint finish.

ENGLAND’s EMILE Heskey has announced his retirement from international football after a disappointing World Cup for England. The 32-year-old Aston Villa forward thanked every manager I have played under, the FA and the fans. Heskey earned 62 caps playing for England.

AN OCTOPUS who made his fame by accurately predicting the outcome of World Cup matches is rumoured to be involved in a transfer deal of his own. A Spanish aquarium has apparently approached Germany’s Oberhausen Sea Life Centre, which is home to Paul, to negotiate moving him to Madrid. Among his many successful choices, Paul picked Spain to win in the final.

DIEGO MARADONA will be offered a new four-year deal to stay on as Argentina’s coach,  the BBC reports. The new contract will see him on board until the next World Cup, which is being hosted in Brazil.

Argentina made it to the quarter-finals of this year’s tournament, before being beaten out 4-0 by Germany.

Maradona is well known for his passion on the sideline. Check out his celebrations when Argentina scored against Peru in the World Cup qualifiers (around 1:15):