Kuper names Irish squad


Hockey: Irish coach Riet Kuper has named her squad for next month's Olympic Qualifier in Milton Keynes and, not surprisingly, in light of their recent performances against the USA, has kept faith with 18 of the 19 players she took to San Diego, writes Mary Hannigan.

Kuper's most difficult decision was which of her three goalkeepers to omit from the squad, opting, in the end, for Ballymoney's Angela Platt over Harlequins' Sharon Hutchinson to join Tara Browne in the eighteen. Platt clinched her place by making an impressive official debut in Monday's 3-0 win over the USA and adds to a fine family tradition of international custodians - her uncle Jim is the former Northern Ireland football goalkeeper.

Edinburgh Ladies' defender Shauna Parkhill, who turned in a composed display on her debut on Monday, and Laura Brown, who returned to the senior panel in Janaury after an 18-month absence from the international scene, have also been selected. Platt, Parkhill and Brown are the only changes from the squad that played in last August's European Nations' Cup finals, replacing Hutchinson, Pamela Magill and Sarah Kelleher.

UCD's Jenny Osborne, who was a reserve panellist, misses out on selection this time but Kuper insisted that the young midfielder has a promising international future, with Milton Keynes just coming too soon in her development.

IRISH SQUAD: A Platt, L McVicker (both Ballymoney), T Browne, D Sixsmith, M Logue (capt), C Carey, J Burke (all Hermes), L Caulfield (Trinity), A Thompson, C McMahon, K Mills, K Humphreys (all Pegasus), R Kohler, K O'Brien (both Harlequins), S Parkhill (Grange Edinburgh Ladies), L Brown (Sutton Coldfield), J Orbinson (Portadown), C O'Kelly (Loreto).

Sailing: Racing in the Americas Cup was again cancelled yesterday because of poor wind, adding to the frustration of an increasingly drawn-out regatta and forcing organisers to add an extra race day.

Defending team New Zealand hold a commanding 3-0 lead over Italian challengers Prada in the first-to-five regatta. The two multi-million dollar yachts bobbed around in a windless and flat Hauraki Gulf for about 90 minutes before racing was cancelled, the fourth time in the series.

The repeated cancellations led to a change to the regatta's schedule, with race four now set to go ahead today instead of tomorrow as planned. Race five is now set for tomorrow. Fresh northeasterly winds of between 12 and 15 knots are forecast.

Athletics: The Italian Athletics Federation (FIDAL) has cleared marathon runner Giuliano Battocletti and sprinter Ilaria Sighele of doping charges.

FIDAL upheld the athletes' claim that nandrolone, the illegal steroid substance detected in tests conducted last year, was contained in a food supplement and was not taken deliberately.

The decisions will be viewed with considerable interest in Britain where UK Athletics chief David Moorcroft has called for a worldwide inquiry into the recent spate of nandrolone positives.

Moorcroft believes that dietary supplements are the reason so many British athletes, including former Olympic and world 100 metres champion Linford Christie, have landed in trouble for nandrolone.

Golf: Jimmy Heggarty shot to the top of the Ulster Grand Prix league table yesterday with a win in the February outing at Stakis Park but the Spawell pro has to share first place with Paul Gray who was outright leader before yesterday's action. Joint 12th place, after a five-over-par 76, was enough to keep Gray at the top of the overall leaderboard and he has an advantage as Heggarty had a "no return" at Royal County Down. There are two more rounds to go.

Strangest round of the day yesterday was carded by Michael Langford. The Portstewart assistant was eight over after 13 holes but hit four birdies in the closing five holes for a four-over-par 75.