Drogheda turn to Cooke as Browne leaves the club


SPORTS DIGEST:SOCCER: Mick Cooke was yesterday named as Drogheda United’s new manager after the club part company with Bobby Browne less than a week before the start of the new League of Ireland campaign, writes Emmet Malone.

Cooke arrives from Monaghan United who he made into consistent challengers for promotion over the last few seasons. At the end of last season, United missed out on a return to the top flight due to a play-off defeat by Bray Wanderers.

The Dubliner subsequently believed he would get to manage the club in the Premier Division this year when Galway United were initially refused the licence they required to play there but the Terryland Park outfit successfully appealed that decision, ending Monaghan’s hopes of taking their place.

Browne’s position at United Park, meanwhile, had been the subject of some speculation since the club was taken over by a group made up of its fans during the close season but having assembled the club’s squad for the new campaign, the former Shelbourne player had looked set to stay in charge at this stage.

It had been rumoured, however, he was unhappy regarding the level of resources being made available to him by the club and it seems matters may have come to a head in relation a preseason friendly last week. In the end, the club said merely that Browne had departed by “mutual consent” with Cooke taking charge immediately ahead of Friday’s home game against UCD.

Ferrer ends Almagro’s unbeaten run

TENNIS: World number six David Ferrer successfully defended his Mexican Open title with a three-set victory over fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the final on Saturday.

Top-seed Ferrer, who has never lost to Almagro in six meetings, won 7-6 6-7 6-2 to capture his 11th title while ending his compatriot’s 13-match winning streak.

World number 13 Almagro was chasing a record third successive title on the Latin American claycourt circuit after his victories in the Buenos Aires Open last week and the Brazil Open the week before. Ferrer, who won the Auckland tournament last month, took the first-set tiebreak 7-4. He gave himself his first set point with a neat drop shot and took it with an ace. Almagro fought his way back into the match and needed just one set point to take the second tiebreak 7-2 with a brilliant return down Ferrers backhand line. Ferrer broke Almagro’s serve twice early in the third set to set up victory.

Argentine fourth seed Gisela Dulko, who lifted her first grand slam title in the women’s doubles at the Australian Open last month, won the womens final 6-3 7-6 against Spanish sixth seed Arantxa Parra.

O’Neill unopposed for top GAA post

GAELIC GAMES:Liam O’Neill is on course to become unopposed GAA President-elect at next April’s annual congress, writes Seán Moran. At the weekend outgoing Leinster chair Sheamus Howlin announced that he was withdrawing from the race, becoming the second candidate in a few days, after Ulster’s Tom Daly last week, to pull out.

O’Neill, from Laois and a former Leinster chair, lost to incumbent Christy Cooney three years ago but is now the only declared candidate still standing.

According to Howlin at the weekend’s Leinster annual Convention in Longford, he had some time ago “resolved not to divide the Leinster support.

“Consequently I met and spoke with Liam. I undertook to stand aside on this occasion and to attempt to unite the province behind his candidature. We shook hands on this some months ago and as recently as last weekend I again confirmed my intentions to Liam.”

In response, O’Neill said: “I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of Sheamus Howlin’s gesture in standing aside from the election for the position of Uachtaran Tofa.”

Howlin also called for support for a Wexford motion to this year’s congress, seeking to revert to the staging of replays for all drawn championship matches.

“If you look at our accounts, page 12, 13th June, Croke Park, Senior Football, both games ended in a draw and after extra time Dublin beat Wexford. The revenue that day was €791,000 less our expenses, say a net €500,000.

“If we had replayed both those games on the following Saturday night our revenue for 2010 would have been €500K more. The ‘no replay’ aim was to allow our association to play more club games which is something that I support, but the loss of this revenue did not result in one extra club game played in any of the participating counties.

“Wexford have a motion to congress to change this rule and I ask you all to seriously study what I have stated . . .”

Putin gets his mascot wish

WINTER OLYMPICS:Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin got his wish when a snow leopard, polar bear and hare were chosen as the official mascots of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday.

Putin, who was largely responsible for Sochi's successful bid to host the Games, said earlier in the day that a snow leopard would be his “symbolic choice”.

“There are three mascots for the Olympic Winter Games, representing the three places on the Olympic podium,” Sochi 2014 chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said in a statement.

Television viewers in Russia voted for the mascots from a pool of 10 candidates by sending text messages. The characters were shortlisted by the organisers from more than 24,000 ideas that were submitted during a nationwide contest. “Leopard species had been destroyed around here but now they are being regenerated,” Putin said on Saturday. “If the Olympic project, at least in some way, should help the local environment, then picking a leopard would be symbolic.”

Tokyo victory for Mekonnen

ATHLETICS:World and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt will run the 200 metres at the Paris Diamond League meeting on July 8th, organisers said in a statement on Saturday.

The race will be the third confirmed European appearance for the Jamaican, who hopes to defend his world 100m and 200m titles in Daegu, South Korea later this year.

Bolt will run the 100m in Rome on May 26th and the 200m in Oslo on June 9th, organisers have said.

All three competitions are part of the 14-meeting Diamond League series. Additional announcements are expected in the coming months as Bolt prepares for the London 2012 Olympics.

Bolt to set the pace at Paris meet

ATHLETICS:Ethiopia’s Hailu Mekonnen sprinted to victory in the Tokyo Marathon yesterday, taking advantage of the absence of world record holder Haile Gebrselassie who pulled out after sustaining an injury in training.

Mekonnen pulled away from Kenyan Paul Biwott around the 35-kilometre mark to claim the win in two hours, seven minutes and 35 seconds. Biwott finished in second with Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi third.