Morning Sports Update

RUGBY

Munster have claimed a bonus-point victory against Connacht.

Conor Murray got two tries and Darren O’Shea, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls ran in the others in their 39-13 win at Thomond Park.


Leinster made it three wins from three against their inter-provincial rivals over the festive period with a 38-7 defeat of Ulster.

Leinster head-coach Leo Cullen

Leinster lock Scott Fardy

SOCCER

Liverpool have confirmed they’ve agreed a deal to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.

They haven’t revealed the exact fee – but it’s believed to be around 146-million pounds.

The Brazilian’s agreed a five-and-a-half year contract – and has a release clause of nearly 355-million pounds.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says they’re letting him go “with great reluctance”.

Barcelona failed with a number of bids for Coutinho last summer.

Mark Hughes has been sacked as manager of Stoke following their shock FA Cup exit at the hands of League Two Coventry.

The 2-1 defeat in the third round proved to be decisive – with the Welshman already under pressure following a poor run of form in the Premier League.

Stoke say they’d like to thank Hughes for his work over the past four-and-a-half years – and that they’ll appoint a new boss as soon as possible.

Chelsea will need a replay to get past Norwich in the FA Cup- after a goalless draw at Carrow Road.

FA Cup 3rd round weekend continues today with four games down for decision.

First up at 12 Leeds United travel to Newport County, while at 2 Shrewsbury Town host West Ham United.

Tottenham face AFC Wimbledon at Wembley from 3, and then at 4 Arsenal make the trip to Nottingham Forest.

HORSE RACING

County Meath trainer Gavin Cromwell enjoyed the biggest success of his training career when sending out Raz De Maree to win the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on Saturday at odds of 16-1.

Raz De Maree, who is now 13 years of age, was runner up in the race in 2016 when only finding Native River too good and he went one place better today under teenage jockey James Bowen.

Raz De Maree is only three years younger than his talented jockey and the pair teamed up to great effect, staying on strongly to record a six-length victory over Alfie Spinner with Final Nudge third and Vintage Clouds fourth.

The first Grade 1 race of 2018 takes place today as Naas plays host to the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle (1.40). All eyes will be on the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination who has looked the part in winning his two starts over hurdles impressively. Paul Townend takes the ride on him. Gordon Elliott might have no Samcro in the line-up due to a dirty scope but he runs Blow By Blow and Cracking Smart.

Willie Mullins will also fancy his chances of winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase (1.15) as he runs exciting French recruit Demi Sang, who is the mount of Barry Geraghty.

The seven-race card at Naas begins at 12.40 and the going is soft to heavy.

Three-time Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Christy Roche has retired from training at the age of 68.

Roche’s first success at Cheltenham arrived in 1999 when he sent out Khayrawani to win the Coral Cup.

Like-A-Butterfly was the Irish banker at the 2002 festival and duly justified 7-4 favouritism in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle under Charlie Swan, while Youlneverwalkalone landed the 2003 William Hill Handicap Chase in 2003. All three were owned by JP McManus.

Like-A-Butterfly won 12 of her 17 starts, including five Grade 1s, but perhaps Roche will be remembered most in the training ranks for his work with the ultra-versatile Grimes, who won the Galway Plate in 2001 having won the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at the Punchestown festival in 1997.
Roche also trained the hugely-talented Joe Mac, who was second to Hors La Loi III in the 1999 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but suffered a fatal injury the following month at Punchestown.

Roche will be best known for his exploits in the saddle as he forged a terrific relationship with Aidan O’Brien and was champion Flat jockey in Ireland on seven occasions during a riding career which spanned almost three decades.

Roche won the Irish Derby three times, the Irish 2,000 Guineas on four occasions and was a three-time winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

Roche’s final runner was Neddyvaughan who finished seventh of nine in a 2m handicap chase at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. He had 43 winners from 468 runners in the last five seasons and his last winner was Out Of The Loop in a 2m4f handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse December 2.

Roche has handed his training licence over to his son, Padraig, who could have his first runners in his own name next month.

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