Monday 31 January 2011

Fernando Torres Signs for Chelsea

Chelsea Football Club is delighted to announce the signing of Fernando Torres on a five-and-a-half year contract.

The move to bring the Spanish World Cup and European Championship winner to London from Liverpool for an undisclosed fee was completed on Monday evening.

Speaking at Stamford Bridge after finalising the move, Torres said:

'I am very happy with my transfer to Chelsea and I am looking forward very much to helping my new team-mates this season and for many years to come.

'Having played against Chelsea many times since coming to England, and in some very big games I will never forget, I know there are many great players here and I will work hard to win a place in the team. I hope I can score some important goals for the supporters to enjoy this season.'

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: 
'This is a very significant day for Chelsea, capturing one of the best players in the world with his peak years ahead of him. We have long admired the talents of a player who is a proven goalscorer in English football and Fernando's arrival is a sign of our continuing high ambitious. I hope every Chelsea fan is as excited as I am with this news.'

Chief executive Ron Gourlay added: 
'Signing a player of the stature of Fernando Torres benefits the club on many levels. Carlo Ancelotti was keen to add his talents to the squad as we continue our quest for three trophies this season, we are delighted we have succeed with that wish, and this signing will undoubtedly aid the club in realising our worldwide potential.'

Torres's scoring pedigree in English football is without doubt. The 26-year-old netted 65 goals in 102 league appearances for Liverpool and 81 in 142 games in all competitions.

He moved to the Premier League aged 23 having spent the previous 12 years at Atletico Madrid, a club based a few miles from the town of his birth on the outskirts of the capital city.

In his time at Atletico, 'El Nino' (The Kid - his nickname in Spain) was the club's youngest player and youngest captain. His debut came aged 17 and he took the armband two years later.

His first full season was a quiet start with just six goals from 36 league appearances but that became 13 from 29 games the next year and the 20-goal mark was reached in 2003/04, Torres's most prolific season in Spain and the year of his debut for the national side.

The player's subsequent emergence on the international stage and 75 goals in 174 Spanish top-flight games meant many clubs across Europe were after his signature but he chose to work under compatriot Rafael Benitez at Liverpool.

The transfer in July 2007 was valued at approximately £20 million, Luis Garcia going the other way, and Torres's first goal for the Merseysiders was against Chelsea at Anfield, opening the scoring in a 1-1 draw after getting the better of Tal Ben-Haim. It was the first of seven goals in seven games against Chelsea. It is his best return against any English club.

He scored three hat-tricks on the way to 33 goals in his first season in England, becoming the first Liverpool player since a previous wearer of the number 9 shirt, Robbie Fowler, to break the 30-goal mark in one season.

His second season returned 17 goals (injury reducing his number of appearances) as his side finished second, three points and one place above Chelsea in the league table. Last season, despite Liverpool dropping down the table to seventh, Torres accumulated a very healthy 22 goals in 32 games.

He headed to the World Cup in South Africa already a winner of the European Championships at senior international level.

In his teenage years, Torres had achieved top-scorer status for his country in both the Under 16 and Under 19 European Championships and he scored his first goal for the senior side against Italy aged 20, seven months after his first cap.

In the 2006 World Cup in Germany he scored three times in the group stage but Spain were beaten by France in the first knockout round. However there was no stopping his nation two years later at Euro 2008, Torres scoring once on the way to the final and the only goal in that match in Vienna as Germany were defeated. It was Spain's first major piece of silverware since 1964.

Last summer in South Africa, Torres struggled for full fitness and form during the World Cup having undergone surgery in April. As a result, Barcelona's Pedro took his place for a semi-final triumph over Germany.

Coach Vicente Del Bosque also left Torres out of the starting line-up for the final. Instead he came on in extra-time in the 1-0 win over Holland although he tore a muscle before the end.

Back in England this season and before joining the Blues, Torres made 26 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 11 times including both goals in Chelsea's November defeat at Anfield.

Camacho Wins Special Battle -Again

Jose Antonio Camacho, Manager Osasuna

A defeat by Real Madrid in Pamplona on Sunday night to Osasuna has stretched the gap with La Liga leaders, Barcelona, to seven points and added some more tension to the work day at the “Casa Blanca" – the White House – as the club is affectionately known in the Spanish media. Amidst some already public strife between Mourinho and the Director General, Argentina World Cup winner, Jorge Valdano, the defeat will just add some more.. 

If that ongoing dynamic was not enough in itself a leading Spanish soccer magazine “Don Balon” reported this week that the Club President, Florentino Perez, is of the view that winning trophies is the only thing that matters now and his patience is being tested in that regard. In what can best be summed up as the traditional "put up or belt up" scenario the report suggests the President finds the Portuguese managers foibles rather tiresome. 

Undoubtedly for Mourinho it is the standard daily fare of football management and reminiscent of his time at Chelsea and Inter Milan. 

For the Special One the only thing that matters is player loyalty – on and off the field – which he usually achieves by winning them trophies. With La Liga slipping a bit and a second leg of the Copa del Rey with Sevilla imminent and the knockout stages of the Champions League fast arriving, that still remains the sole focus of the squad. For Mourinho winning trophies solves all the day-to-day intrigue. 

But based on the performance at Osasuna the loyalty was tested as Madrid struggled to impose themselves on the home side even when €126Million worth of signings came on in the second half. In fairness to Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Emanuel Adebayor the game was lost at that point with Real unable to establish any better rhythm given all three lacked match fitness. 

The lack of defensive cohesion, ironically the hallmark of all Mourinho teams, was the major concern, with the absence of Alonso for most of the game - due to his mid week illness - most noticeable. Yet with such costly assets in the squad it is striking that the team lacked the usual organisation and Mourinho seemed unable to redress that lack of balance. 

Jorge Valdano meanwhile maintained upbeat and believes there are enough games left for Mourinho to make up for dropped points. 

"This club doesn't give up easily," said Valdano after the match, according to Madrid's official 

"This was an unexpected outcome, but we have to pick ourselves right up. There is a lot of season left and we have the talent to win all three competitions." 

Reflecting on the encounter in Pamplona, Valdano stated: "The game was a bit out of control when [Emmanuel] Adebayor came in. He is fast and makes his presence felt. I am sure he will contribute good things as he continues adapting. 

"This was a tough result to swallow, but we are not throwing in the towel. We are an ambitious team and we have learned from what made this club great." 

"Some matches take much more effort than others, but there is no need to be concerned about the future. We have proven that we can play well. 

"We have the narrowest of margins heading into Wednesday's Copa tie [against Sevilla], but we play in front of our fans. We know how to play in finals, but we must qualify first." 

The happiest man in the twenty thousand seat Reyno de Navarra stadium was undoubtedly Jose Antonio Camacho, the former Spanish and Real Madrid manager, and playing stalwart of the side in the 70's and early 80's. In his time he came to know how damaging Real Madrid management can be walking out on the club the second time he was there after only days. 

He also has had a previous tussle with Jose Mourinho having managed Benfica in 2004 where Camacho also emerged victorious in their encounter in the final of the Copa de Portugal in May of that same year. Although Porto went on to win the League and the Champions League weeks after Camacho stopped the Mourinho treble with Benfica's 2-1 victory. 

For Camacho Sundays’ night win therefore was most enjoyable. 

For Rugby it's Deja-vu all Over Again

Jonathan Sexton

The arrival of many leading All Blacks to these parts to earn their keep playing rugby is no longer rare and undoubtedly down to some tempting offers that allow the Southern Hemisphere stars play at the highest level this side of the Equator in the likes of the Heineken Cup - without financial loss. However those that have done so made the move following glittering careers with their national teams, after appearances at rugby World Cups, Lions Tests and countless other honours. 

The rare exception being perhaps Rocky Elsom who was here to regain form with Leinster - make some money along the way - but who has since returned to his homeland to captain The Wallabies in their World Cup campaign this year. 

For Irish fans to see Doug Howlett, Jean de Villiers starting for Munster over recent seasons allowed the province get their money's worth and also the players benefit as with their new team's they found new leases of life. So much so that de Villiers regained his place with the Springboks as did CJ van der Linde from Leinster. 

The arrival of All Black Jerry Collins at Toulon in 2008 followed a path well treaded by fellow Kiwi's Carlos Spencer, Andrew Merhtens, Justin Marshall and many others previous in the non professional era who ended careers playing in the Northern Hemisphere. They all did so having once they believed the All Black set up may not hold a future for them and did so knowing that they had achieved their potential with the best rugby organisation in the world 

In a game that is offering potentially large salaries the challenging decision remains the same as it always has – what means more the money or the silverware? 

As Irish rugby battles to stave off the financial challenges of reduced ticket income following the Guinness October Series, the potential threat to TV agreements, which the outgoing Government were proposing, the IRFU continues the financial balancing act with their operations facing the same challenges every household is in 2011. With the cycle of players contracts now up for grabs this seems an area which has attracted the most media attention as players look around at the telephone numbers being paid around Europe – albeit mostly in France - leaving them question whether the central contract with the Irish Ruby Football Union makes the most sense. 

For most observers it is a case of Déjà vu all over again. 

When Jonny Wilkinson arrived in Toulon back in 2009 he did so with a 2003 World Cup winners medal in his trophy cabinet, with much other recognition and at a time when he had been ravaged by injury. Perhaps he believed that a change from the English Premiership might be the means of prolonging his career – content to forgo more international caps – and joined alongside Jonah Lomu and signing for a reported €750K at the time. 

But let’s not forget that Jonny was 30 years of age when he made that move. 

Now two years further on the foundation laid has brought reward this season as Toulon have reached the Heineken Cup quarterfinals and Mourad Boudjellal the President of Toulon - who made his estimated £40million fortune from comics – has been vindicated in what was a strictly commercial deal in signing Wilkinson that has now proved one of his smartest ever deals. The value of Wilkinson as a merchandising proposition was clearly an asset from the outset and it was Tana Umaga's agent who calculated that the former New Zealand captain's annual salary at the same club had been paid off within three home games from the sale of tens of thousands of replica shirts in 2006. 

Boudjellal explained at the time. 
“Jonny is first of all a link in the chain of the team,” he said. “But it is also about what Jonny can bring for us off the pitch. If he can bring more in image rights, that is a bonus. There are many players who have an amazing image but on the pitch they can't bring you anything. That doesn't interest us.” 

With the call of some less far flung clubs and the incentive to maximise earnings in a short playing career some of the Irish players have to calculate where club achievements outweigh their national team aspirations, appearances at the world cup and 6 Nations. Albeit Jamie Heaslip was part of the 2009 Grand Slam his Leinster team-mate Johnny Sexton was not and for one with so much potential the lesson from the Wilkinson career bears much thinking about. 

Closer to home one only need look at the achievements of Brian O’Driscoll, who for many seasons, has withstood the lure of a big French rugby salary. It does not seem to have held his career back? Or left his trophy cabinet bare either? 

Friday 28 January 2011

Irish at IPC World Championships

Seasoned competitor Garrett Culliton from Clonaslee, Co. Laois threw 17.49m in the F52 Discus final and finished the event in sixth place.

“It was a good competition with quality opponents. I threw well in the first round but was unable to improve on this in the second round. It gives me a clear indication of what work I have to do in preparation for London 2012,”stated Culliton after the event.

Hugginstown’s Ray O’Dwyer threw 19.76m in the F34 Javelin final which left the Kilkenny native with an overall ranking of 11. At just 20 years of age this was O’Dywer’s first appearance at a major championships.

James Nolan, Team Manager of the Irish Team in New Zealand, said, “I was very impressed with Ray today. He was composed out there in the stadium even when interrupted by an overeager official. Some are born to stay cool in pressure situations, Ray possesses this quality. At age 20 it may be RIO 2016 before we see Ray at his best but I have no doubt he will be on a Paralympic podium.”

In other major news from the IPC World Athletics Championships South African Oscar Pistorius dramatically lost out to Jerome Singleton from the US in the final for the T44 100m final. Both athletes recorded the relatively slow time of 11.34secs but Singleton was awarded the gold medal and title of world champion. This was the first time that the Pistorius had been beaten in the 100m since the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

Reigning Paralympic 800m champion Michael McKillop will compete in the T37 800m final tomorrow morning.

Friday 28th January
10.12am: Michael McKillop, T37 800m final

Saturday 29th January
9.30am: Catherine Wayland, F51 Discus throw final
9.30am: Rosemary Tallon, F52 Discus throw final
4.00pm: Orla Barry, F57 Discus throw final

Adabayor Completes Real Move

Emmanuel Adabayor hopes to have put a turbulent 12 months behind him after completing what he described as a dream move to Real Madrid.

Adebayor was presented at the Bernabéu today after joining Real on loan until the end of the season from Manchester City, with the Spanish giants having the option to buy the 26-year-old in the summer.

The switch, which will see Adebayor help cover the loss of Gonzalo Higuaín to injury, comes after a difficult 2010 for the former Togo captain both professionally and on a personal level.

He initially proved a massive hit at City following his £25m move from Arsenal 18 months ago, but Adebayor's star faded after Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as manager.

Away from the pitch, Adebayor was scarred by tragedy last January after the Togo team bus was attacked by terrorists during the African Nations Cup in Angola.

Speaking today, Adebayor admitted his start to this year could hardly have been more different to 12 months ago.

"My dream has come true to be able to play football again at the highest level, especially with Real Madrid," he said. "After Arsenal, when I went to Man City, don't get me wrong, it's true that I had an up and down time, and I was nearly dead as well on the way to the African Nations Cup.

"I was a little bit traumatised by all those kinds if things and it was a very difficult moment for me and today all those kinds of things are behind me. 2010 started very badly for me, but 2011 started very well by signing a contract with Real Madrid.

"Hopefully there's a lot of good coming my way, so I have to praise God that I'm still alive and I get the chance to wear the white shirt of Real Madrid.

"I'm very honoured and very, very happy to join this club. And for all that has happened over the last six months today I'm more comfortable, more relieved and I'm very happy."

When asked what went wrong for him under Mancini at City, Adebayor added: "I'm a footballer and what I need is to play football, to be out there on the pitch.

"What went wrong with Mancini and Manchester City? I don't think there's a lot of things wrong. Right now he's lost confidence in me. He doesn't have any confidence in me any more and he has decided to choose other players.

"So for me I'm very happy to be back again on the football pitch with Real Madrid and the chance to play football again."

Madrid were forced to enter the transfer market when Higuaín was recently ruled out for up to four months after undergoing back surgery, leaving José Mourinho with Karim Benzema as his only senior striker.

With Higuaín absent for a significant period and Benzema struggling to impress, Adebayor has the chance to push his claims for a permanent switch to Madrid over the next few months.

However, the former Arsenal forward, who scored 19 goals in 43 games for City, is not looking too far ahead.

He said: "At the moment I'm here for six months and I'm very honoured, and happy and grateful to wear the Real Madrid shirt.

"The most important thing for me is to enjoy myself here and everybody is making me feel at home. I'm going to talk to the boss [Mourinho] to see how I can help the team win things.

"I'm a player who loves challenges, and who came here to achieve a lot of things. It's not going to be easy but I'm here to help the team achieve things."

He added: "I'm here to learn. Players never stop learning. I will learn and from then I will have to improve my game. I have to score goals, I have to create goals, I have to make things happen.

"I have to pay back all the people who have confidence in me by playing well on the pitch. Football isn't just about scoring goals – it's about attitude and what you can achieve and how you can help your team win games."

Thursday 27 January 2011

Mixed Emotions for McKillop

Michael McKillop

Irish athlete Michael McKillop had mixed emotions after winning the 1500m at the Paralympic World Athletics Championships at Christchurch yesterday.

The 20-year-old knocked two seconds off the old world record when storming to victory in 4:15.70.

However, McKillop missed out on a medal as the rules state there must be a minimum of three competitors.

McKillop's only opponent was Khaled Hanani of Algeria and so the Irishman was denied a chance to receive a deserved gold to add to the one he won in the 800m at the Paralympic Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

McKillop suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy but has overcome his handicap to develop into an excellent runner and Irish officials in New Zealand, especially team manager and two-time Olympian James Nolan, are confident that the Antrim runner will complete the double in the 800m in tomorrow's final and perhaps lower the world record of 1:57.30.

McKillop is coached by his father, Paddy, and prepared for New Zealand by having six weeks warm-weather training in South Africa.

Ailish Dunne was sixth in the shot putt with 6.62m, and Nadine Lattimore was seventh with 6.12m.

McKillop's record-breaking run came on a day when the Paralympic Council of Ireland launched their plans for the 2012 Olympic Games. The launch took place in Dublin and it was announced that they hoped to have a team of 70 competitors in London.

A new Paralympics logo has been designed which reflects the dynamism of Irish paralympic sport, with chief executive officer Liam Harbison declaring: "The launch marks a very significant milestone in the history of our organisation."

The launch was officially made by RTE's Colm Murray, who has reported at three previous Paralympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Other Shortened TV Careers

Andy Gray and Richard Keys

Ron Atkinson
Forced to resign as an ITV commentator in April 2004 after comments about Chelsea defender follwing a Champions League semi-final against Monaco. Atkinson's comments were made off-air while the post-match analysis was being carried out, but were picked up by a microphone and broadcast in several places in the Middle East.

Rodney Marsh
The Sky pundit was dismissed by the organisation for making a joke about the Tsunami disaster. The former Manchester City player said David Beckham had turned down a move to Newcastle United as he was afraid of the "Toon Army in Asia". Marsh said: "I am hugely disappointed in myself for letting [Sky] down."

Dean Jones
Former Australia Test batsman was sacked by Sri Lankan television station Ten Sports for calling South African batsman Hashim Amla "the terrorist" during a game in Colombo. "It was a completely insensitive thing to say and obviously never supposed to be heard over the air," he said.

Ron Franklin
The ESPN commentator was fired after calling touchline reporter Jeannine Edwards "sweet baby" and then saying she was an "asshole" for objecting to his comments.

Malcolm Allison
Allison was dismissed by Middlesbrough's Century Radio in 1994 after calling a linesman a "------- disgrace" live on air. The former Middlesbrough manager had already been suspended for swearing during a previous broadcast.

Alan Pardew
The Newcastle manager has not been invited back to BBC's Match of the Day 2 after saying Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien had "absolutely raped" his opponent, Southampton's Ched Evans, in a tackle during his analysis.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Sky Terminate Gray's Contract

Sky Sports today terminated its contract with Andy Gray.

The decision, which is effective immediately, was made in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour.

The new evidence, relating to an off-air incident that took place in December 2010, came to light after Andy Gray had already been subjected to disciplinary action for his comments of 22nd January 2011.

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports,said: "Andy Gray's contract has been terminated for unacceptable behaviour.

"After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today."

Andy Gray Sacked by Sky Sports

Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray has been sacked in the wake of comments made about female assistant referee Sian Massey

Monday 24 January 2011

Mulcahy and Crowley Sign up for Season

Pete Mahon has continued putting his squad together for the 2011 season with the signings of midfielders Dave Mulcahy and Paul Crowley.

Mulcahy needs no introduction to Saints' fans and Pete Mahon told STPATSFC.COM that he is looking for more of the same from the Kilkenny man:

"We all know what sort of a season Dave had last year and we're obviously delighted that he has committed himself to the club for the new season.

"Dave is a player we tried very hard to get last year and he became a very important part of the team.

"Having lost Stuart Byrne and Damian Lynch it was vital to keep him not only because of his ability but also because of his experience and we're delighted he has signed."

Paul Crowley spent the 2010 season with Drogheda and has also previously played for Shamrock Rovers, UCD, Waterford United and Dundalk and Pete Mahon thinks he will also add experience to the squad:

"Paul is a very experienced player who has played with a number of clubs in the league.

"He is a thorough professional and gives 100% every week on and off the pitch and having managed him before in a past life I know exactly what I'll get from him.

"We needed to bring in somebody in the midfield area with Stuart Byrne and Garreth O'Connor gone and Paul fits the bill and will do a very good job for us."

Mahon told STPATSFC.COM that he hopes to add three more players to his squad before the start of the season:

"We're hoping to finalise a deal for one player over the next few days and then after that I'll be looking to bring two more players in.

"That will give us a nice squad after also adding Daryl Kavanagh this week to the panel.

"I've been absolutely delighted with how the first week of pre-season has gone and that's a real positive for me.

"When you bring new players in you hope that they'll buy into your way of thinking and working and the new lads have taken to the team like a duck to water."

Wayland wins silver in New Zealand

Friday 21 January 2011

Guinness Strengthens Ties

Diageo has strengthened its relationship with rugby for its GUINNESS brand in Europe by announcing a deal as Official Beer Partner of the RBS 6 Nations.

ShareGUINNESS is proud to become the first beer partner in the 100-year history of the leading annual international rugby tournament in the world.

GUINNESS already enjoy a long standing association with the IRFU as a proud partner of Irish rugby and title sponsor of the autumn internationals, the GUINNESS Series.

In recent years GUINNESS extended its rugby partnership to include both Leinster and Munster, in addition to being the official beer of the Aviva Premiership and the British & Irish Lions.

The partnership with the RBS 6 Nations broadens the GUINNESS brand association from Irish provincial and national rugby to appeal to the millions of international fans of the sport, making GUINNESS a significant player in rugby sponsorship in the northern Hemisphere.

Stuart Kinch, Senior Brand Manager, GUINNESS Ireland, said: "The new partnership gives us our largest ever presence in rugby, with over 120 million in TV audiences watching the RBS 6 Nations, and demonstrates our long term commitment to the sport.

"Our rugby partnerships are all about offering fans an enriched experience around the rugby occasion.

"The GUINNESS brand's association with the RBS 6 Nations will encourage the coming together of all fans, whoever their team is and wherever they watch the rugby, to share a rugby experience together over a pint of the black stuff."

John Feehan, Chief Executive of RBS 6 Nations Rugby, said: "We are delighted to welcome GUINNESS on board as a RBS 6 Nations Partner. The GUINNESS brand has a long standing presence in and commitment to rugby that makes them the perfect partner for our Championship.

"The union of GUINNESS and the RBS 6 Nations together espouses all that is great about international rugby union on and off the field in terms of the pan-national camaraderie and friendship that is so unique to our sport and so ingrained in the culture of the Championship.

"We greatly look forward to working with GUINNESS over the years and Championships to come."

Irish fans can follow the GUINNESS rugby team of International players - Jamie Heaslip, Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Sexton, Stephen Ferris, John Muldoon, Tomas O'Leary andJerry Flannery - on the GUINNESS Rugby Supporters Facebook page throughout the RBS 6 Nations campaign and beyond.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Real Make Mourinho Statement

In light of reports by various media outlets concerning a Spanish Football Federation official bulletin that alludes directly to our coach Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid C.F. wishes to:

1) Express the indignation produced by such references on the official website of the Spanish Football Federation.

2) Express the severity of such references published on the official website of the Spanish Football Federation regarding our coach, which clealy demonstrate far from objective, neutral and fair prejudice that should otherwise appear in official bulletins of said body. 

3) Profoundly reject the use of our coach in such a manner as that employed by the official website of the Federation, as we understand that it may deliberately turn a body such as that of the referees against the coach of Real Madrid and the club itself. 

4) Demand liability as we believe it is lack of respect and consideration towards our coach, Real Madrid and its fans. 

5) Lament the publication of such official bulletins on the official website of the Spanish Football Federation, although Real Madrid will continue striving for the best possible relationship between the club and the Federation within a framework we all believe is beneficial to Spanish football.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Australian Open 2011

Ana Ivanovic 
Australian Open 2011
Venue: Melbourne Park
Surface: Plexicushion
Official Ball: Wilson
Host Broadcasters: Seven Network & Fox Sports
Tournament Director: Craig Tiley
Tournament Referee: Wayne McKewen

Field sizes
Men's singles
128 (104 direct entries based on rankings, 16 qualifiers, up to eight wildcards).
Women's singles
128 (108 direct entries, 12 qualifiers, up to eight wildcards).
Men's doubles
64 pairs, including up to seven wildcards.
Women's doubles
64 pairs, including up to seven wildcards.
Mixed doubles
32 pairs, including up to seven wildcards.

Computer rankings are used as a basis for the seeding of 32 players in the singles championships. The first and second seeds are placed, respectively, at the top and bottom of the draw. All remaining seeds are then placed by ballot in designated positions in the draw, followed by the remainder of the field, which is randomly drawn from top to bottom of the draw by IBM computer technology.

Men's Singles
The Norman Brookes Challenge Cup
Singles Championship of Australia
Presented by the State Lawn Tennis Associations and the friends of Mr Norman E. Brookes

Women's Singles
Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup
Australian Women's Singles Championship

Donated by the NSW Lawn Tennis Association

Rafael Nadal

Sunday 16 January 2011

Nasser Al-Attiyah Wins Dakar

Volkswagen driver Nasser Al-Attiyah coolly claimed his maiden Dakar Rally success as Carlos Sainz took the stage win on the 13th and final test of this year's event.

Qatari ace Al-Attiyah started the day with a lead of over 48 minutes over team-mate and runner-up Giniel de Villiers and he stretched that advantage to over 50 minutes as he finished second to Sainz on the day, with the Spaniard extending his record of Dakar stage victories to 24.

Al-Attiyah was never likely to lose such a handsome lead on today's short 181-kilometre run from Cordoba back to Buenos Aires, with the pivotal moments of the event coming when defending champion Sainz, who eventually finished third overall, struggled on stage eight before losing huge chunks of time during stages 10 and 11.

BMW's Stephane Peterhansel was the best of the non-Volkswagen's in fourth place.

O'Neill set to replace Grant

Monday 10 January 2011

Questions over Trap operation

A manager based in England or Ireland could not have expected to undergo an operation of such magnitude while staying under the public radar
Paul Rowan, Published: 9 January 2011

AN IRATE reader of one national newspaper accused it of ageism during the week over its coverage of Giovanni Trapattoni’s operation on the carotid artery in his neck, but realism might be the more accurate description.

Questions concerning the health of the Irish management team are not a matter of prurient curiosity, but of genuine public interest, as long as the matter is handled respectfully.
You don’t need to go back too far to find a distressing example of seeing a member of the Irish management team struggling not only with the demands of the job, but with his fading health.

On a cold November night back in 2006, the sight of Sir Bobby Robson out in the open under the old West Stand at Lansdowne Road, one of his arms in a sling because of paralysis, filled all those who saw him with concern. Especially given that he had recently returned from another operation to remove cancerous growths, the disease that would eventually take his life three years later at 76.

Robson loved working — and nobody would deny his right to do so — but his time as Ireland’s assistant manager can’t be regarded as a successful one and not just because the results were poor. The feeling persists that it was a job too far for a man whose passion for the game knew no bounds and is matched only by a few, among them Giovanni Trapattoni.

The Italian, aged 71, is clearly in a far more robust physical condition than Robson was when he came over to do a job for Ireland, as anybody who has seen the Italian’s workouts on the training pitch will testify.

But that doesn’t preclude the media from asking questions of his health, even if it is a cue for the politically correct brigade to start penning their letters to the editor. Furthermore Trapattoni — and possibly the FAI, depending where the truth lies here — miscalculated by initially trying to keep the operation under wraps.

Apart from a brief statement from Trapattoni and a radio interview given by the Ireland team doctor, Alan Byrne, the FAI has refused to comment on matters concerning the manager’s health.

The reticence is understandable given the way this episode has been handled. Reports that Trapattoni had suffered a stroke first emerged in the Milan press and were then repeated in Ireland.

The damage was already done by the time the denials of a stroke were made by the FAI and Trapattoni, and the question remains why we weren’t told about the operation in the first place when it clearly was something more than routine. The FAI said, on RTE News at One, that they were not aware of any recent medical issue and a spokesperson said that he did not have a stroke.

So either Trapattoni didn’t tell the FAI or, as some sources in the association have indicated, he told certain individuals and it was decided the whole matter should go no further.

Bad decision either way, but an understandable one. Back in August, before the friendly against Argentina, Trapattoni was admitted to the Mater hospital with stomach pains, which we were told was caused by scar tissue from a previous, unspecified, operation. Did that operation also take place during Trapattoni’s tenure?

Saturday 8 January 2011

Sainz wins Dakar Stage 6

Sainz in action

Carlos Sainz won the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally Friday, extending his overall lead as the grueling race passes through the Atacama desert to the Chile-Peru border.

Sainz, the defending champion in the cars category, guided his Volkswagen to victory in 4 hours, 53 minutes, 53 seconds. Teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah was 9 seconds back with Giniel de Villiers 9:49 behind. In the overall standings, Sainz is 2:42 up on Al-Attiyah and 14:15 ahead of Stephane Peterhansel.

In bikes, Ruben Faria on a KTM won the stage in 5:37:27. Helder Rodrigues was 50 seconds back and Cyril Despres trailed by 3:54. Marc Coma, who finished the stage fourth, kept his overall lead and is 8:48 ahead of Despres and 22:12 in front of Francisco Lopez Contardo.

The long, dusty stage pushed drivers to the limits with Saturday's rest day sure to be welcome.

Peterhansel in a BMW was gaining on Sainz at the midway point, but then had navigational problems and was halted four times by tire punctures.

"We only had three spare wheels, so we had to stop regularly to inflate that last wheel," said Peterhansel, who has won Dakar nine times. "We paid for our setbacks quite heavily today. It's a bad news before the rest day."

There were similar problems on the bike side.

"Honestly, it's a miracle I finished," said Despres, whose KTM had engine problems. "After the refueling point the bike started to vibrate and I didn't know whether to stop or not — in case the engine was going to blow."

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Sainz Wins Another Stage

Carlos Sainz added a second stage win in as many days at the Dakar Rally in Argentina, dominating the 324km special stage from Cordoba to San Miguel de Tucuman.

The Volkswagen driver crossed the line with a 1min 03sec advantage over Qatari teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah, with French veteran and multiple champion Stephane Peterhansel 94 seconds adrift in his BMW.

Double rally world champion Sainz moved his overall lead over Peterhansel to 3:05 with last year's runner-up Al-Attiyah third at 3:19 as the drivers head for Tuesday's third stage - a 500km special from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy.

But the Spaniard lamented losing previous time because of windscreen wiper problems. 

'They wouldn't work properly and for a dozen kilometres I couldn't see a thing and I had to drive very slowly,' said Sainz. 

'I'm very disappointed. I've probably lost a lot of time. I don't understand why we still have this problem, because the mechanics checked everything yesterday. Overall, though, this stage suited me rather well.'

Al Attiyah also suffered mechanical problems which resulted in him losing power over the final 100km.

'Yesterday we had a small problem and today we had exactly the same problem,' said the Qatari.

'I don't know what's wrong, it was probably something to do with the water. We really need to fix it because I'm disappointed that we lost a lot of time.'

Peterhansel was nevertheless impressed by Sainz's form.

'It isn't easy to try to follow Sainz's pace. You can see that on these very technical stages, Carlos is slightly quicker than us and we'll perhaps have to wait until the desert to find a chink in his armour.' 

In the motorbikes section, three-time champion Cyril Despres also claimed victory in his section's 300km second stage. Despres finished 1min 49sec ahead of fellow KTM rider Marc Coma of Spain with compatriot David Casteu of Sherco in third. 

Lewis records nine-dart finish

Monday 3 January 2011

Carlos Sainz Faces Dakar Test

Unbeaten in the sport since the 2010 Dakar, Carlos Sainz comes into the 2011 edition with wisdom as well as a technical dexterity that have been established for a long time now. But the title defence will require the Spaniard to control a number of contenders, both in and out of his own team. 

The conjunction of parameters needed to for winning the Dakar prohibit overly confident prognostications. Even Carlos Sainz had to pay his dues. 

The two-time world rally champion had to first complete his learning phase of driving in the dunes and he made his share of first-timer mistakes before adapting his pace to an endurance event, then he had to team up with a suitable co-driver, Lucas Cruz, before finding the path to success. In all it took ‘El matador’ four editions and 17 stage wins before he won his maiden Dakar. And it was at the conclusion of an exercise in keeping a cool head because he had to contend with his team mate, the rambunctious Nasser Al-Attiyah, who finished a mere 2’38” adrift in the overall classification. In the Volkswagen camp, it seems that the Qatari is ready to give it his all to march on to the final step of the podium. 

Also runner-up on the Silk Way Rally, but at the wheel of the prior generation Race Touareg, Al-Attiyah will this time be at the controls of the same car as Sainz. In this VW duel, team mates Mark Miller and Giniel De Villiers have no intentions of playing the role of spectators. The 2009 winner demonstrated in Russia that he had rediscovered his form, before crashing out of the rally. 

While the German entries are favourites for the win, Robby Gordon, who finished on the podium in 2009 and who won’t be satisfied until he wins, can’t be overlooked. His latest generation Hummer is now four-wheel drive. The second car in his team will be driven by former Formula One driver, Eliseo Salazar from Chile. Further down the list of entries are a number of candidates, who don’t necessarily have enough to battle for the top three, but who have their sights set on a top ten result. One such entry is Christian Lavielle with his Dessoude-Prototype, as are Matthias Kahle and Benat Errandonea in the Philippe Gache prepared buggies. And finally, the opening stages will also offer a chance to Joan “Nani” Roma, who was brought in at the last minute to be the lead driver in Team Overdrive.

Saturday 1 January 2011