Tolka finally clinch first title


Basketball: Tolka Rovers finally clinched their first ever women's ESB Superleague title on Saturday night when, despite all the threats of falling at the last hurdle, they pulled off the crucial victory over the University of Limerick on the comfortable score of 65-44, writes Ian O'Riordan.

With Racel Kelly in superb form (22 points in total), it was always going to be Tolka's night after they had built-up a 38-23 lead by half-time.

Even though the Avonmore Snowcream Wildcats were convincing winners of their final two outings over Meteors (67-50) and Killester (74-57), and finish joint leaders on 34 points, the title still goes to Tolka as they beat the Wildcats in three of the four meetings during the season.

After Neptune ended their winning run to the men's title on Friday, there was more good news for Cork interests when the Esat Telecom Demons confirmed their runner-up spot with a 96-82 victory over Denny Notre Dame. That result also pushed Notre Dame, the Sprite Cup champions, down to fifth on the league table.

The final league placings also decided the top eight teams to go forward to next weekend's National Championship, and it was UCD Marian who earned themselves the last remaining place with their 86-81 win over Killester yesterday. Elsewhere, St Vincent's took over sole possession of third spot after their 99-88 win over Burger King Limerick. Also going forward to the National Championship are Star of the Sea, Kerry Spring Killarney and Killester.

Equestrian Sport: Peter Charles, who finished third in the World Cup qualifying round in Dortmund on Saturday, has guaranteed himself a slot in the line-up for the World Cup finals in Las Vegas next month, writes Grania Willis.

The Hampshire-based rider notched up the first clear of the 18 that had made the cut from Friday night's eliminator. Just three others followed suit and it was down to Charles to open the batting against the clock.

Riding the mare Traxdata Amber du Montois, which had slotted into third place at the Irish round in Millstreet last November, Charles stopped the clock on 41.11 seconds, but a fence down left the door open for his rivals and, when both Germany's Ludger Beerbaum and Robert Smith of Britain were both faultless, the Irishman was relegated to third place.

Beerbaum took the top honours with the stallion Champion du Lys and the Barcelona Olympic gold medallist has now moved up to joint-sixth in the western European league. Charles is currently eighth on 51 points, more than enough to get him through to the Las Vegas final.

Dortmund World Cup qualifier - 1, Germany's Champion du Lys (Ludger Beerbaum); 2, Britain's Athos du Vallot (Robert Smith); 3, Ireland's Traxdata Amber du Montois (Peter Charles); 4, Germany's Kasting Horses Vento (Helena Weinberg).

Cycling: Having dominated last s Sunday's Cycleways Cup in Navan, double Olympian Philip Cassidy was very much to the fore again yesterday in the Coombes Conor memorial in Drogheda. Cassidy went clear on the first of five laps with seven other riders. All went according to plan as the 65 miles counted down; the break of eight was reduced to four by the start of the final lap, with Cassidy, Brian Lennon of St Tiernan's and the Cidona Carrick duo Eddie O'Donaghue and Michael O'Loughlin to the fore. Donaghue, and later OLoughlin pressed on ahead with solo attacks.

Lennon was distanced on the steep climb half-way around the final lap, and at that point the advantage swung very much the way of the Carrick Cidona duo. Cassidy rode strongly to contain their alternate forays ahead, but at the finish an unselfish lead out by O'Loughlin saw Eddie O'Donaghue outsprint Cassidy for the victory. Lennon crossed the line in fourth place with Brian Kenneally making a late charge to finish fifth.

Rowing: Neptune's win in the Dublin head of the river on Saturday was proof that strength-n-depth is crucial in this sport as in others: despite being without such as Albert Maher and Tony O'Connor through work commitments and injury the Neptune eight was able to row the Liffey course just under 20 seconds faster than their nearest challengers, Trinity.

Indeed the surprise of the day was that it was the relatively inexperienced Trinity eight who filled second and an intermediate UCD eight third. Garda, who would hope to give Neptune a run for their money this season, were without Declan Quinn, but finishing 29.31 seconds behind Neptune, is still a big disappointment.

On a more upbeat note for Garda, the crowds which lined the Liffey walls and the bridges from O'Connell bridge to the weir on a beautiful day saw history made as the first ever Garda women's eight competed. They finished 23rd of the 33 crews which took to the water.