Dundalk out of Champions League, Mayo’s kick-outs need to improve

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England’s James Anderson returns to the fold for today’s opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty

England’s James Anderson returns to the fold for today’s opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty

Dundalk’s Champions League dream is over, after they were beaten 3-0 away to Azerbaijan side Qarabag last night. Vinny Perth’s side went into the second leg with everything to play for after a 1-1 draw at Oriel Park last week, however a 12th minute Jaime Romero goal left them with a mountain to climb in Baku. The League of Ireland champions stayed in the game until the 76th minute when Ailton effectively ended the tie - before Romero rubbed salt into the wounds with a third late on. After the match, Perth was magnanimous: “I said it was one of the best sides we had ever faced and I think we have seen that. We just had a discussion there and it’s half-time in our European adventure. That’s where we want to get to.” Dundalk’s European odyssey is not over, with the Europa League qualifiers and a trip to play Slovan Bratislava now beckoning. Tonight Shamrock Rovers head to Apollon Limassol of Cyprus defending a 2-1 lead in their Europa clash.

Elsewhere in today’s GAA Statistics column Eamon Donoghue has looked at Mayo’s faltering kick-out ahead of Saturday night’s do-or-die clash with Donegal at MacHale Park. James Horan’s side have struggled to find rhythm and form in this year’s championship, something he suggests is partly down to the quality of goalkeeper David Clarke’s restarts: Big Aidan is the country’s best ball winning midfielder, but he has not been dominating his own team’s restarts as you would expect. That’s one of the reasons why Mayo have retained only 74 per cent of their own kick-outs so far this summer (not including the New York preliminary round match), and they have not won any more than 78 per cent in any single match.” And he feels a change in personnel between the sticks could be the answer to Mayo’s problems: “Clarke has dealt with every single high ball that’s come in on top of him this summer (as did Rob Hennelly against Roscommon and on seven occasions in the league final), and he has saved a very impressive six out of the 10 shots at his goal in those five matches. He is a top quality goalkeeper and a master of the basics. But in terms of distribution, from play and restarts especially, Hennelly offers a lot more.”

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