St Fintan's complete senior double for second year running

BASKETBALL: St Fintan's of Sutton cemented their status as the top boys' basketball school in the country at the National Basketball…

BASKETBALL: St Fintan's of Sutton cemented their status as the top boys' basketball school in the country at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght yesterday, as coach Jerome Westbrooks led the school to two more All-Ireland League titles.

The St Fintan's under-16 and under-19 teams defended the All-Ireland league titles they won last year, with Fintan's win at the latter level completing a second consecutive league and cup double for the school.

The senior double-double was achieved after a bruising final tussle with Our Lady & St. Patrick's of Belfast, with St Fintan's eventually winning 39-33.

Both defences were superb in the game, which made every score crucial, and after five lead changes in the third quarter alone, it was St. Patrick's who found themselves leading 30-25 going into the final quarter.

However, in that final quarter, a combination of good free-throw shooting, some high intensity defensive play, and a big three-pointer from MVP Darren O'Moore saw St Fintan's claw their way past the Belfast boys.

St Fintan's under-16s had an easier time in their final with St. Gerald's College, Castlebar as they cruised to a 56-33 victory.

In the Senior Girls' final meanwhile, Castletroy College of Limerick made history as they won their first All-Ireland Senior A title.

Once again it was Our Lady & St. Patrick's who were the unlucky losers, as they struggled to cope with the double threat caused by the Castletroy duo of Rachel Clancy and Louise Gray, in a 47-33 defeat.

SHOW JUMPING: Kevin Babington, who finished fifth in the individual final at the Olympics last summer, has won the prestigious Irish Field award as show jumper of the year for 2004, writes Grania Willis.

The Co-Tipperary born rider, who celebrated his 36th birthday during the Athens Games, relies almost entirely on the Irish-bred Carling King for top competitions. Now based in America, Babington and Carling King opened their 2004 campaign with two Grand Prix wins on the Florida circuit in February, followed by victory in the $100,000 Cosequin championship in Wellington in March. They then added the La Baule Grand Prix to their haul in May, before fine-tuning preparations for Athens with Nations Cup outings at Rome, Rotterdam, Aachen and Hickstead.

The awards were presented in Dublin yesterday, when fellow Olympian Mark Kyle took the senior event rider of the year title. Kyle, 31, won at Witton Castle in March with the Irish-bred Drunken Disorderly, the horse he took to Athens, where his 21st place finish was best of the Irish squad.

The Irish Field dressage rider award went, for the fourth year in succession, to German-based Anna Merveldt-Steffens. Awards also went to triple international pony event winner 15-year-old Kate Harrington (young event rider) and to 16-year-old Liege Grand Prix winner David O'Brien (young show jumper).

GOLF: Nick Faldo, elected last week as Europe's Ryder Cup skipper for 2008, says it is time the continent's best players began challenging for a major.

The last European to win one of golf's four annual grand slam events was Britain's Paul Lawrie, in the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie after a play-off.

"That is something that worries me," six-times major winner Faldo wrote in a column for the April issue of Golf World magazine.

"We have some great talent coming through, but how many have been up on a major leaderboard when it really matters?

"Winning majors is about holding your nerve under the most intense pressure. I know we can point to players for whom it just hasn't happened but I don't believe that's down to luck."

Faldo, winner of three Masters and three British Opens between 1987 and 1996 and widely regarded as Britain's greatest player, singled out seven-times European number one Colin Montgomerie.

"Monty has often been saddled with the label 'best player not to have won a major' but I remember him saying to me that he didn't feel the majors were that important, how he'd rather be on a winning Ryder Cup team. Well he's achieved that. The point is you do start to believe your own press?"