Missunited’s prolific run has come to an end since being tried in Pattern company but she cannot be ruled out. Noras Fancy bids for a hat-trick in the I.T.B.A Fillies Scheme EBF Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase after two wins at Thurles. The latter of those successes came in Grade Two company and as a result she has to give weight all round, including to Carrig Millie, herself a winner at Thurles last time. Rather appropriately Charles Byrnes has two chances in the Limerick Races Congratulate World Hurdle Winner Solwhit Hurdle, named in honour of this week’s Cheltenham hero. Synchronicity made a decent fist of things on his hurdling debut at Navan, but he was behind stablemate Courage, and the Invincible Spirit gelding could be the one. Dul Ar An Ol may be a little long in the tooth to be making his chasing debut in the Charleville Cheese Beginners Chase, but John McConnell has opted to give the 12-year-old, in consistent form over timber, a try in this sphere. The Willie Mullins-trained grey was still firmly in contention when crashing out in a Listed race at Sandown, having travelled to Britain on the back of a maiden success at Fairyhouse in November. Only lightly-raced but well-regarded, that run at Fairyhouse was her first in two-and-a-half years and connections have clearly been very patient with her. Twigline bids to atone for a heavy fall at the last flight on her previous outing when she lines up for the Kerry Group EBF Mares Novice Hurdle at Limerick. Press Association
Defender David Luiz has no issue with Chelsea’s fixture pile-up as the Blues do battle on three fronts over the end-of-season run-in. “All the games are important to us – you know that at Chelsea. Southampton away is a difficult game, we need to win and after that we have a big derby in the FA Cup. Last year we won the competition, so it is also important.” At one stage, it looked as if Chelsea would be out of the FA Cup having trailed 2-0 at Old Trafford before mounting a stirring comeback which on another day could have seen them go on to win the tie. Luiz accepts it was perhaps a missed opportunity. He added: “People saw the match and in the second half Chelsea controlled all the game and we had the opportunities to win. I felt a little bit sad, but now we have another game to win. We have an opportunity on Monday. When you do well on the pitch (against them) this gives you a lot of confidence.” Despite a difficult spell, Rafael Benitez’s squad are still in with a chance of ending what has been a testing campaign on a positive note should they progress in the FA Cup and on towards the Europa League final. Just who, though, will take charge of the squad next season remains to be seen. Interim manager Benitez is set to depart in the summer, with reports suggesting Chelsea will turn to former boss Jose Mourinho to take the club forwards. The Portuguese coach, 50, is currently in charge of Real Madrid and looking to guide the Spanish side to the Champions League title, having knocked United out in the last round. Mourinho – who left Stamford Bridge in 2007 following three successful seasons – retains a property in London and his daughter is set to take up a place on a course at Camberwell Art College in the next Academic year, further fuelling speculation he was set to return to Chelsea, having now again built up a good relationship with billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. The Brazilian insists a hectic schedule of some six games in just 16 days can be met head on. Chelsea will be out to cement their place in the top four of the Barclays Premier League at Southampton on Saturday, before then tackling Manchester United in an FA Cup quarter-final on Easter Monday. They then host Rubin Kazan in the Europa League. “I love to play games, I prefer to play games than training for sure. I want to play both games against Southampton and Manchester United and I want to win both matches,” Luiz told reporters. Press Association
A hat-trick by Robin van Persie – sold to United from Arsenal last summer – sealed a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday night to secure a 20th domestic championship for the Red Devils. Tradition has seen champions clapped onto the pitch in the past, with United having done so for Chelsea in 2005 and also Arsenal back in 1991 at Highbury. However, given the animosity from some Gunners supporters to the £24million departure of their former captain to United, where he has gone on to score 28 goals, the issue did throw up concerns. Nevertheless, Press Association Sport understands Arsenal will proceed with the plans to mark United’s achievements. Arsenal are expected to provide new Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United with a guard of honour ahead of Sundays match at Emirates Stadium, Press Association Sport understands. Press Association Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been reluctant to discuss the issue ahead of their Premier League game at Fulham. He said: “Manchester United have won the title. Do they win it here or somewhere else? It is done. “For us, what is important is to win the next game which is Fulham and then after we deal with Manchester United.” Arsenal are 21 points behind United in third place, but remain in the hunt for Champions League qualification. The Gunners should learn on Tuesday afternoon whether striker Olivier Giroud will be available against United following the club’s appeal over his red card in the 1-0 win at Fulham, which if upheld would mean an automatic three-match suspension.
Press Association Jack Guiney’s stoppage time goal sent the tie to added time as the Slaneysiders fought back, but they were no match for a resurgent Banner side in the closing stages. Clare led by 1-10 to 0-7 at the interval, with Shane O’Donnell grabbing their goal. Wexford fought back with points from Podge Doran, Gary Moore and Ciaran Kenny, before Guiney hit his dramatic leveller. But Davy Fitzgerald’s men put the tie beyond reach by hitting 2-3 in the first period of extra-time, both goals coming from substitute Cathal McInerney. Armagh went on a scoring rampage to blitz Leitrim in a one-sided All-Ireland SFC Qualifier tie at Carrick-on-Shannon. Eugene McVerry helped himself to a hat-trick as the Orchard men romped to an 8-13 to 0-10 win. They led by 4-8 to 0-4 at the interval, with McVerry striking twice, and Tony Kernan and Kevin Dyas also hitting the net, all of Leitrim’s points coming from Kevin Conlon frees. McVerry and Mark Shields added further goals in the second half, before Jamie Clarke completed the rout with two late strikes. Clare needed extra-time to see off Wexford in a dramatic All-Ireland SHC Qualifier at Thurles.
Paolo Di Canio has vowed to learn from his experience at Sunderland and return to English football as a better manager. In a statement issued to the Press Association, Di Canio said: “I remain confident in my ability and I want to manage again in England as soon as I can. “When things like this happen it is important to take something positive from it. I have learnt a lot from my brief time at Sunderland and I am sure that this will only make me a better manager in my next job. “Even though my time at the club ended prematurely, I would like to thank Sunderland for giving me my first opportunity to be a Premier League manager.” Di Canio was axed after the Black Cats’ 3-0 defeat at West Brom, having reportedly alienated some senior players by singling them out for criticism. But Di Canio described reports that a delegation of senior players had demanded his exit as “wholly untrue”. Di Canio added: “There was no training ground bust-up as some are reporting and many of the players have since sent me messages thanking me for my time as their manager and helping them improve as footballers.” Di Canio replaced Martin O’Neill at the end of March and was credited with saving the club from relegation after inspiring a famous 3-0 win at north east rivals Newcastle in only his second match in charge. But despite bringing in 14 new players over the summer, things quickly turned sour with an opening day home defeat to Fulham kicking off a run which yielded a single point from their first five games. Press Association Di Canio added: “When you bring in 14 new players, many from overseas and very few with Premiership experience it is going to take time for them to adapt to the English game and to gel as a team. “As I have said many times, I love English football and I feel that my time at the club has been unfairly cut short as given the chance, I am certain that had I been allowed longer, I would have been able to develop the team to achieve the success Sunderland fans desire. “We could see that results had not gone as well as any of us had hoped, but I felt as a team we could turn things around.” The Italian has ended his silence since his sacking at the Stadium of Light by insisting he will “take something positive” from his tumultuous 13-game spell in charge. And he dismissed reports that a training ground bust-up were responsible for his dismissal, claiming players sent messages of support in the wake of his exit.
Press Association But the thrilling nature of their 3-3 draw at Swansea encapsulated what Hughes had been missing since leaving Loftus Road. He said: “I enjoyed the drama. It was a great game for the neutral and there was a lot of emotion shown on both sides. That’s what you want to see in games. “As you are right in the thick of things, there are a number of situations you feel as a team and as a side we need to deal better with, but overall you never lose that love of football and what it entails and the emotions it can engender.” The former Wales, Fulham and Blackburn manager has sought to tweak the Potters’ style of play after they were criticised in some quarters for their direct approach under Pulis. Against Swansea a combination of the two approaches proved highly effective during the first half. A long ball forward from Ryan Shawcross saw Peter Crouch flick-on for Jon Walters to put the Potters ahead but, while that may have been viewed as a typical Stoke goal, the second involved a lovely exchange of passes for Stephen Ireland to score. But they were guilty of trying to protect the lead after the break, and trailed 3-2 before Charlie Adam’s controversial late penalty salvaged a point. “We know this season there are going to be ups and downs and there will be times when we are elated and times when we are disappointed,” he said. “We probably had all those in the game at Swansea so at the end of the day we will look back on the game and think it was a good point to take given the circumstances. “But we can make it a lot easier than we did in terms of getting Premier League points if we do correct things and just stop momentum when you see it’s building. We have to be better in that respect.” Stoke boss Mark Hughes is relishing life back in the Barclays Premier League and admits his love of the game never wavered during his spell on the sidelines. Hughes took over from Tony Pulis at the start of the summer, handing him his first job since his difficult spell in front of the QPR dugout, which ended when he was dismissed a year ago with the club adrift at the foot of the table. It has not been the easiest start to the season at the Britannia Stadium, and the Potters have not won in eight league games.
The trio will leave Upton Park on June 30 on the expiration of their current contracts. “West Ham United would like to thank Joe, George and Jack for their considerable efforts and contribution to the success of the club in recent seasons and wish them well in their future careers,” a statement read on the club’s official website. Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and midfielder Matt Taylor are continuing negotiations over new contracts. Cole, a West Ham academy product, was regarded as one of the most gifted players of his generation, but revealed his impending departure last week. He left for Chelsea in 2003 and won three Premier League titles during a spell when he became an England regular but injuries saw him fall down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge. A move to Liverpool in 2010 failed to reignite his career but he enjoyed a successful loan spell with Lille before going back to Upton Park. The 32-year-old returned to his first club on an 18-month deal in January 2013 but played only a bit-part role in the season just concluded. He moves on having not started a game in the Barclays Premier League since scoring in the 3-3 draw with West Brom last December. Press Association West Ham have confirmed the imminent departures of former England midfielder Joe Cole, defender George McCartney and midfielder Jack Collison.
Press Association Portugal winger Nani has admitted he could leave Manchester United with other clubs interested in signing him this summer. “A return to Portugal? Right now I don’t know.” Nani, who joined United from Portuguese side Sporting in 2007, struggled with a hamstring injury that limited him to just seven Premier League starts in the 2013-14 season. He started in all three of his country’s games at the World Cup. Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 on Thursday but were eliminated from the tournament in Brazil after finishing third in Group G. The 27-year-old is under contract with the Red Devils until June 2018 but Arsenal have reportedly joined Inter Milan, Juventus and Benfica in the hunt for his services. “I’m a United player but there has been some interest on my behalf,” Nani said to Portuguese sports newspaper Abola. “I will evaluate it and decide what is the most advantageous for me.
“Last year he did very well and then had an injury with his shoulder and after that he didn’t play so well but he’s always an important player for us. We don’t want to sell him. We want him to stay with us.” Pellegrini, speaking at a press conference on Friday, said there was “nothing for the moment” when asked about possible signings before Monday’s transfer deadline. Other players out of the first-team picture, such as Micah Richards, John Guidetti and Scott Sinclair, have been linked with moves away from the Etihad Stadium but Pellegrini was again non-committal. He said: “We will see what happens with them in the next 48 hours. “They know at the moment they are not part of the squad because we have enough players with the 22 players I chose for this year, but in this moment I really don’t have any news.” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini insists the club have no intention of selling striker Alvaro Negredo. Pellegrini said: “For the moment there is no news about that, for Negredo or anybody. We are not receiving any offers for any players. “At this moment he is part of our squad and we are not trying to sell him and nobody has given an important offer.” It is not the first time Negredo has been linked with a move since the end of last season, with Atletico Madrid reportedly interested over the summer. Negredo made an immediate impact at City last season after arriving from Sevilla in a £20million deal. He went on to score 23 goals in all competitions but the last of those came in January as he suffered a loss of form in the second half of the campaign after suffering a shoulder injury. That slump cost him a place in Spain’s World Cup squad but the player himself dismissed claims he was homesick, saying he was very settled at City. Pellegrini said: “Maybe one month ago some Spanish clubs had an interest in him but that was one month ago. “At this moment Alvaro is injured but part of our squad. The 29-year-old Spaniard, who is currently sidelined with a broken metatarsal, has been linked with European champions Real Madrid. Reports have claimed Negredo, who had a spell with the Primera Division giants’ B team earlier in his career, is being lined up as a potential alternative should the club fail in attempts to sign Monaco’s Radamel Falcao. Press Association
McCarthy will return to the land of his birth with Martin O’Neill’s squad this week as they take on Scotland in a crucial European Championship qualifier at Celtic Park. The Group D clash could pit McCarthy against former Accies colleague James McArthur – and spark an emotional tug-of-war in the corridors at New Douglas Park where the midfield duo were both given their footballing education. The Tartan Army have no right to boo Republic of Ireland international James McCarthy on Friday night, according to his former Hamilton team-mate Alex Neil. Press Association Accies player-manager Neil says he will be backing Scotland’s McArthur to come out on top in the next leg of the race to Euro 2016. But he has shot down any suggestion that the home support will have the right to shower Everton’s 23-year-old McCarthy with stick. Like Goodison team-mate and former Celtic star Aiden McGeady, McCarthy turned his back on the Dark Blues to pledge his international future to the Boys in Green Overlooked by Scotland youth selectors, the Toffees midfielder took up the Republic’s offer to join their Under-16s squad. By the time the Scottish Football Association got round to calling-up the then talented Hamilton youngster, his mind was made up to stay with Ireland, who he is eligible to represent through his late grandfather Paddy Coyle. Scotland boss Gordon Strachan suggested last week that both McCarthy and McGeady could be treated like pantomime villains by the Scotland crowd, while former Dark Blues defender Gordon McQueen was quoted in several newspapers on Monday claiming the players “deserved” to get a “horrible reaction” for rejecting their nation of birth. But Neil – who helped guide McCarthy into the Hamilton team – said: “I’d like to think James won’t get any reaction really and that the fans will just let the kid go and play his football. “At the end of the day, he didn’t get picked for Scotland and Ireland did. So it’s not his fault. When you have only got one option, it’s pretty easy to take that option. It’s not as if Scotland came calling. “He’s a terrific footballer and I don’t think any of that should have a part to play.” McCarthy was given his first-team introduction at Hamilton when he was just 15. Alongside McArthur, the pair helped the Lanarkshire outfit reach the Scottish Premiership before both being plucked down south by Wigan. They went on to win FA Cup winners’ medals with the Latics before Roberto Martinez took McCarthy with him to Everton and McArthur sealed his own switch to Crystal Palace. The best friends have already come up against each other this year in the Barclays Premier League – a 3-2 win for the Eagles at Goodison six weeks ago – but now they could go head to head on the international stage. “To see two young lads who came through the system here go on and play at the top level of international football for their countries will make everybody extremely proud at this club,” added Neil. “Obviously we are Scottish so we will be supporting Scotland, but I want James McCarthy to have a terrific game. “It will be really interesting to see how the two of them get one against each other. But knowing the two of them, they are fierce competitors and they will be looking to do well for their own country. “But I’m Scottish, so I know which one I will be cheering for.”