Morning Sports Update

SOCCER

The future of the Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill remains in the air this morning.

He’s expected to miss out on Stoke job – with the Potters instead making former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores their number one target.


Flores was coy on his future after his Espanyol team won at Levante in the Copa del Rey last night but he’s set for more talks with Stoke today.

The Premier League strugglers are keen to appoint Mark Hughes’ successor before their trip to Manchester United in the Premier League on Monday.

O’Neill has verbally agreed a contract extension with the F-A-I through to the end of the 2020 campaign – but he’s not yet signed it.

There’s a ‘steel city’ derby in the SkyBet Championship this evening where Sheffield United host Sheffield Wednesday at Bramall Lane.

A win for United would see them move into the playoff spots while Wednesday are looking to end a run of three games without a victory.

RUGBY

There’s a top of Pool 5 clash in rugby’s Champions Cup.

Bath host the current PRO-14 champions the Scarlets at The Rec with one just one-point separating them at the summit after four rounds of games.

Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne starts in the centre for the Scarlets.

The Irish provinces will name their team’s this lunchtime ahead of this weekend’s games.

Ulster are set to play La Rochelle in the Champions Cup tomorrow while on Sunday Leinster will host Glasgow and Munster are away to Racing 92.

Connacht go to Worcester tomorrow in the Challenge Cup.

GAELIC GAMES

McHale Park plays host to the re-fixed meeting of old rivals Mayo and Galway in the F-B-D Connacht Football League this evening.

Mayo drew with Leitrim midweek while Galway got the better of Sligo in their opener.

GOLF

Paul Dunne has had disappointing start to EURASIA Cup in Malaysia.

The Wicklow man and partner Alex Noren lost their first match by 2 holes.

Europe trail Asia by 3 and half points to 2 and half after the opening fourballs.

RACING

Jessica Harrington has confirmed that Sizing John will go to Cheltenham without another warm-up run.

The triple Gold Cup winner has returned to cantering this week after a disappointing outing at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

Harrington says it’s important the horse is ‘fresh’ ahead of his defence of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Six runners will line out for the Sun BETS Race (6.30) – a Fast-Track Qualifier – at Dundalk this evening.

Richard O’Brien could not have hoped for a better start to his training career and capped a memorable 2017 when Beach Bar provided the stable with its 13th success of the year when running out a good winner at Dundalk last month.

The quirky sort has now won two since joining O’Brien’s yard last summer and faces his sternest test off level weights against higher-rated horses in the feature.

Beach Bar is proven on the surface but is the only horse in the six-runner line-up that hasn’t won over the distance at Dundalk.

Captain Joy holds the highest rating off 103, and Tracey Collins will be hoping that her nine-year-old can get back to winning ways under Pat Smullen.

The Ger Lyons-trained Glastonbury Song, twice a winner at Dundalk, looks likely to head the betting.

Russian Soul, winner of 11 races, represents Michael Halford while the field is completed by Damian English’s Geological and the Sheila Lavery-trained Secret Wizard.

Racing begins at 5.00pm at Dundalk and the surface is standard.

Irish Grand National and Grade 1-winning trainer Sandra Hughes has been appointed as this year’s ambassador for the Irish Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards.

A daughter of the late great Dessie Hughes, Sandra took over the licence after her father’s passing in November 2014 and enjoyed immediate top-flight success with Lieutenant Colonel, who won the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown that year.

Her biggest day in her short but successful reign as a trainer came in the spring of 2015, when she managed to snare one of the most competitive races in the Irish racing calendar, the Boylesports Irish Grand National, with the Katie Walsh-ridden and Gigginstown-owned Thunder And Roses.

In her new role as ambassador for the popular Irish Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards, Hughes will try and encourage as many nominations as possible during the six-week nomination period and will be visiting racing yards and stud farms as well as other key areas of the industry.

Speaking about her appointment, Hughes said: “I am hugely honoured to be appointed by Godolphin as their ambassador for the Irish Stud and Stable Staff Awards and I’m really looking forward to getting out on the road to meet as many trainers and breeders as possible.

“Godolphin’s incredibly generous sponsorship is a wonderful recognition of all stud and stable staff who are the backbone of the industry.”

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