Thursday Lunchtime Sports Update

GAELIC GAMES

The majority of Inter County Footballers are now in favour of a tiered All Ireland Championship.

That is the finding of the latest survey by the Gaelic Players Association.

Division four teams unanimously voted to boycott a proposed ‘B’ championship in 2016.

The G-P-A say almost 60 per cent of the members now support splitting the tournament.

They also found that there is a growing prevalence of hip and groin injuries, and that three quarters of inter county players feel the off season is too short.

RUGBY

Keith Earls has committed his future to Munster.

The Limerick winger has agreed a new two year contract with the I-R-F-U.

The new deal will keep Ireland’s record World Cup try scorer at his Province until 2021.

Earls says it would be hard to see himself playing anywhere else.

Conor Murray has explained why he didn’t want detail of his recent injury going public.

The Munster scrum half has yet to play this season but is hoping to return to the pitch within the next few weeks.

Speaking at the launch of PINERGY’S #WeAre16 campaign the Ireland and Munster number 9 explained his reasoning for keeping his medical data private.

Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion are back in the Connacht team for tomorrow’s Pro 14 game against the Neath Swansea Ospreys in Wales.

Finlay Bealhma and Quinn Roux are also included having been named in the Ireland sqaud for the November Internationals yesterday.


Ireland 7s international Robert Baloucoune will make his Ulster debut on the wing against the Newport Gwent Dragons in Belfast.

Will Addison will partner Stuart McCloskey in the centre.

Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jordi Murphy also start, but John Cooney remains out.

GOLF

Rory McIlroy has carded a level par opening round at the W-G-C H-S-B-C Champions event in Shanghai.

The Ulsterman had a solid start, but was left scrambling after a double bogie on his 7th hole.

He carded 4 birdies and 2 bogies following the turn, but in share of 27th place lies eight shots off the lead.

On 8 under, Masters champion Patrick Reed is two strokes clear at the top of the leader board.

SOCCER

The Republic of Ireland have dropped three places in the latest FIFA World Rankings.

Martin O’Neill’s men have fallen to 33rd spot following the recent draw with Denmark and defeat to Wales.

Ireland are one place above Northern Ireland ahead of next month’s international friendly with the North at the Aviva Stadium.

The Welsh are up a place to 18th, England have climbed to a five year high of fifth.

Arsenal and Chelsea are in Europa League action tonight.

The Gunners are in Portugal looking to extend their winning run to 11 matches.

They are away to Sporting Lisbon in a Group E top of the table clash.

The Blues welcome Group L opponents BATE Borisov to Stamford Bridge.

The Belarusians are returning to London 11 months after a 6-nil thrashing at Arsenal.

Eden Hazard misses the game due to a back injury.

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri says he needs rest a few other front liners.

Celtic have made the trip to Germany to face R-B Leipzig in Pool B.

Group G leaders Rangers play Spartak Moscow.

HORSE RACING

The reigning champion jump jockey, Richard Johnson says the recent dry spell has had an impact on the number of horses participating at meetings during the early part of the autumn.

The National Hunt season is set to move up a gear this weekend with the first fixture of the new campaign at Cheltenham.

The summer has seen some of the warmest days racing in decades and a battle is already emerging between Richard Johnson, Harry Skelton and even possibly Brian Hughes for the Jockeys title.

Johnson is the Champion and leads the race having just days ago got to 100 winners for the season.

He’s been speaking with Mike Vince about the state of the ground at a number of tracks ahead of the Cheltenham opener.

Last year’s Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien will not defend the trophy.

Owner Lloyd Williams has announced that his Irish Derby winner Latrobe will be redirected to the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes on the final Saturday of the Spring Carnival on November 10.

Despite possessing a remarkably similar profile to last year’s winner Rekindling, Latrobe looked the ideal type for a Cup bid, but Williams announced on Thursday “the Cup this year at 3,200m is too soon for him”.

There is a seven-race card at Thurles this afternoon with the first underway at 2.05.

In the UK, they run at:

Carlisle at 1.55 – the going is good and good-to-soft in places
Ludlow at 2.10 – good, good to firm in places
Southwell at 2.20 – good
And on the standard track in Chelmsford at 5.15.