Press Association McIlroy could only add a 72 to his opening 74 at Carton House to finish two over par, with McDowell and Harrington missing out by one shot on one over and Clarke six over. That left former winner Shane Lowry to carry the burden of home hopes as the 2009 champion returned a second-round 70 to share third place on seven under, two shots behind leaders Robert Rock – whom he beat in a play-off four years ago – and American Peter Uihlein. McIlroy admitted on Thursday he felt “a little bit lost” as he struggles to rediscover the form which brought him five victories last year and made him world number one. But the 24-year-old said he would not add either the French or Scottish Open to his schedule ahead of the third major championship of the year, instead honouring sponsor and family commitments and working on getting the right Nike driver. “If I did not have those commitments I probably would, but as long as I play rounds and be competitive myself – play with one ball – it’s the same sort of thing,” McIlroy said. “My schedule has been light, but from the Open onwards I am playing seven events in nine or 10 weeks. I still have a lot of golf to play. “It was a new driver in the bag this week but it’s still not 100% so I will be testing next week, but it’s definitely more swing than it is club. Two weeks is a lot of time to try and get something right and hopefully I will be ready for Muirfield. “It’s not great for the tournament that myself, Graeme, Darren, Padraig and Paul McGinley are not here for the weekend, but we have Shane up there and after playing with him for two days I think he has a good chance going into the weekend.” Despite holding off Tiger Woods and McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi Championship last year, Rock’s biggest payday remains the “winner’s” cheque of 500,000 euros he collected at Baltray in 2009, with Lowry unable to claim it as he was still an amateur. Uihlein was ranked the top amateur in the world before turning professional in 2011 and taking the unusual decision for an American to ply his trade in Europe. The 23-year-old carded a 68 on Friday, with Rock going round in 66 to hold a share of the lead. Jose Maria Olazabal is two shots back following his round of 69. Rory McIlroy will head into the Open Championship at Muirfield on the back of a missed cut at the Irish Open – and was joined in making an early exit by fellow major winners Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.
Press Association The Hammers are due to become anchor tenants at the stadium in 2016 but Hearn claims that is “not a done deal” because of his ongoing judicial review and legal action against the Premier League. Hearn wants his club to be able to ground-share with West Ham and use just the lower tier for Orient’s matches. Hearn, giving evidence to the House of Lords committee on Olympic and Paralympic legacy on Wednesday, said: “This is not a done deal. West Ham have an agreement but I have a judicial review outstanding and litigation with the Premier League that West Ham even moving would be a breach of Premier League rules. Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn has claimed West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium has been so underwritten by public money that it is “state sponsorship beyond my wildest dreams”. “We have ended up in situation where we have gifted £500million of tax-payers’ money to a Premier League club that has a turnover of more than £100million. It’s a wonderful gift but if I was an Arsenal fan I would wonder why we bothered paying to build a new stadium. “This is state sponsorship beyond my wildest dreams. In effect it’s rent free as they have ability to develop Upton Park.” West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady insisted that the club was not getting the stadium on the cheap and that the deal was good value to the tax-payer. Brady was asked to respond to a claim by former sports minister Richard Caborn that West Ham was getting the £600million stadium for just £15million plus £2million a year rent with the tax payer picking up the tab. Brady defended the deal however, saying: “The alternative scenario does not bear thinking about. “West Ham is not getting a free stadium. The stadium was built for the Olympics and what are we going to do with it? Across the world stadiums that are not used, die. “Without anchor tenants the cost would be huge to the tax payer.” She added that West Ham would generate “many hundreds of millions of pounds” over its 100-year lease. Brady also revealed the Hammers will have to pay off all their bank debt – around half their £70million total debt – before their move to the Olympic Stadium.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers remained steadfast the Uruguay forward is not for sale, but declared the forward would certainly be worth a sum closer to the £100million being touted for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale by Real Madrid if he were. Arsenal’s pursuit of Suarez looks to have stalled following a second improved bid of £40m plus £1, which had been intended to trigger a clause that would allow them to discuss terms with the Uruguayan, who is now reported to be considering handing in a transfer request and taking legal action in order to orchestrate a move away from Anfield. Manager Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal will not get involved in a public bidding war over Luis Suarez, but is confident his side can still win the Barclays Premier League title without signing the wantaway Liverpool striker. “When you want to buy any player you need the agreement of the club, of the player and you need to agree a price, so you need three agreements. “It is like you go to your neighbour and say: ‘I want to buy your house, so get out tomorrow morning.’ He will not be necessarily happy about it. “What is important is we focus on the players we have, that we are not too much drawn into these stories. “I can understand they are interesting for people who love football, but it is not the most important (thing) in the game.” Despite only adding France Under-20 forward Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre so far, Wenger remained defiant when asked whether he felt the squad as it was could challenge the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City for the championship. “Yes, of course. I am confident. Why should I sit here and say to you we can absolutely not win the title with the players we have?” the Arsenal boss said. Wenger’s faith in his current squad looked questionable after some poor first-half defending allowed Lorenzo Insigne and Goran Pandev to put the Italians in command. However, an acrobatic goal by France striker Olivier Giroud with 18 minutes left sparked a fightback, with Laurent Koscielny heading in a dramatic late equaliser. “It was a good game overall at a good pace against a good side who finished second in Italy last year,” said Wenger. “I feel overall over 90 minutes we played going forward. It took us time to adjust defensively, and as well it was a good mental test because from 2-0 down to come back for 2-2 is very impressive.” Wenger, whose side will face Galatasaray tomorrow afternoon before a final pre-season friendly against Manchester City in Helsinki next weekend, confirmed Ivory Coast forward Gervinho was set to leave, with his destination expected to be Roma, but that there was no progress on a deal for Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner. “Gervinho we are close to an agreement with a club where he should go,” the Arsenal boss said. “(Marouane) Chamakh might go somewhere, it will be decided in the next 48 hours. “(But) Bendtner we are nowhere. He is completely here.” Wenger, though, reiterated after the 2-2 draw with Napoli in the Emirates Cup – he intended to conduct further transfer dealings in private. “I never said we have made a bid to Liverpool, now I can tell you we have made one, so at least that is some information. All the rest, I would like to keep to us,” Wenger said. “If we progress in that situation, we will inform you. At the moment, that is where we are. “We will treat every transfer with the rules we have always done until now, that is in a fair and respectful way. “That is our club, that other clubs do differently is their problem, but we will be completely faithful to the values we think are important here.” When pressed on whether he would be prepared to shell out such a massive fee on one player, Wenger said: “I do not understand this kind of thinking and would not like to talk openly about negotiations because that is not my target in (this) press conference. “We have one month in front of us and we will work very hard to strengthen our squad, without naming any specific names, because I do not believe that will make negotiations easier. “After that, you can make all kind of thinking about the price of the players, and you can say as well they are all overboard anyway. Press Association
The Premier League has reported record adult and junior season ticket sales for 2012-13. Total adult sales across the 20 top-flight clubs last term were 476,776, beating the previous best of 476,267 from the 2007-08 campaign. The figure represents a seven per cent increase on 2004/05, the first season the Premier League started compiling season ticket data. However, league officials were even more delighted with the impressive junior season ticket sales. An overall sale of 58,546 represents a massive 26 per cent increase from 2004-05, achieved as a result of major new initiatives aimed at attracting more fans to games. Some of the moves highlighted by the Premier League include: – Everton reporting a 39 per cent surge in season ticket sales for Under-16s after introducing a £95 season ticket for Under 11s and a £149 ticket for those aged 12-16. – Newcastle United claim to have Europe’s largest family enclosure area of almost 8,200 for 2013-14, with a combined adult and child season ticket available for £483. – Aston Villa offering family season tickets for two adults and two children, with prices starting at £650 for families with children under-eight and £695 for those under-16. – Arsenal launching the ‘Young Guns’ Enclosure for supporters aged 12 to 16 with access to 1,000 tickets to every weekend category B and C Premier League match for a fixed price of £10. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has called on all clubs to come up with some kind of fan initiative, which also includes Stoke offering free travel to away games. “Making football more attractive and more affordable for families is something clubs have worked hard at over the last few years,” said Cathy Long, the Premier League’s head of supporter services. “Football is increasingly a family affair – 29 per cent of fans attend with children, and the clubs are doing a better job in making football more accessible to them. “In 2009, 76% of parents thought clubs catered well for their need, but that had increased to 87 per cent last season.” Press Association
The ‘City Til We Die Group’ met with Allam 10 days ago and held what it described as “essentially positive” exchanges. In a statement released through the club on Monday, though, Allam said: “Having been deprived of opportunities to acquire the stadium freehold, which would have enabled us to create the infrastructure in the surrounding area, we will now need to focus on generating commercial income from elsewhere. “A shorter club name will hopefully enable us to do so, with a stronger, quicker marketing impact all over the world.” The statement went on to say that while Allam’s preference remains ‘Hull Tigers’, he will first ensure the financial benefits of making such a switch stack up. Allam also added he felt fans understood his need to generate new income streams, saying: “I believe the representatives at the meeting accepted that there is a wider issue at hand, in that we need to ensure the club can sustain itself through commercial income.” A final decision is expected to be made early in 2014. The current name of Hull City Tigers only refers to the company and not the team. Allam changed the club’s name from Hull City AFC to Hull City Tigers earlier this year and has a longer-term view of making it Hull Tigers, having previously described ‘City’ as a “lousy” and “common” word. Allam believes this will give Hull a greater chance of generating revenue – especially as the council own their ground – but many supporters are against the proposed switch. Hull owner Assem Allam wants to press ahead with his plans to rename the club despite recent talks with supporters who are against the idea. Press Association
Tries from Lote Tuqiri and Noel Reid put the visitors in the driving seat early on, but Treviso fought back with a Ludovico Nitoglia score and the kicking of fly-half Matt Berquist. It then looked as if Angelo Esposito’s try would hand the home side the win, before Gopperth’s decisive intervention ensured the contest finished 21-20 to Leinster. Press Association Jimmy Gopperth’s late penalty saw Leinster claim a narrow RaboDirect PRO12 victory over Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Monigo. The Italians got off to a poor start, as – following a missed penalty from Gopperth – their Irish opponents powered ahead through Tuqiri and Reid’s efforts, which came in the 13th and 15th minutes. Gopperth failed to convert after the first try but made no mistake second time around. Treviso’s response got under way midway through the first half via a penalty from Berquist, who then converted Nitoglia’s try as the hosts reduced the deficit to two points. Gopperth extended the gap once more after the break with penalties on 47 and 53 minutes, but again Treviso responded well and Berquist’s boot made it 18-13. Esposito then crossed on the hour and with Berquist converting, it appeared the champions were heading for defeat. But Gopperth kept his cool towards the end to seal Leinster’s triumph. They move up to third, while Treviso stay 10th.
In tricky conditions due to a swirling wind and rain Zebre adjusted to the conditions better in the first half and made the first inroads on the scoreboard when Luciano Orquera landed a fourth-minute penalty. He could not land his second attempt from further out five minutes later. But after Orquera went off for attention after he was hauled down near the Ulster line, Tommaso Iannone stepped up and sent over a 15th-minute penalty after Ulster were penalised at a scrum. Ulster finally made their presence felt just before the half-hour mark when Payne hit the line off a James McKinney flat pass and beat four defenders with a mazy run to score under the posts. Pienaar added the extras to give Ulster the lead for the first time at 7-6, which they held until half-time despite another dangerous flurry from Zebre. Ulster, though, upped the pressure after the restart and Piennar kicked a 48th-minute penalty to make it 10-6. The hosts still struggled to shake off their opponents and only in the 72nd minute did they score again when Pienaar landed his second penalty. Fresh from back-to-back thrashings of Treviso in the Heineken Cup, Ulster battled from 6-0 down to record their firth successive win in all competitions and they seventh victory in 10 league games. The hosts recovered from their early deficit thanks to a try from Jared Payne and a conversion and two penalties from Ruan Pienaar, but Zebre thoroughly deserved their losing bonus point. Ulster returned from two highly successful weekends of European action by continuing their winning streak in the RaboDirect PRO12, but it was a far from convincing effort as they struggled against Zebre and the difficult conditions before claiming a 13-6 victory. Press Association
Press Association Dimitar Berbatov’s proposed return to Tottenham has fallen through with the Fulham striker set to join Monaco. The 33-year-old Bulgarian is expected to undergo a medical with the Ligue 1 side this afternoon, with German midfielder Lewis Holtby joining Fulham on loan from Tottenham for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the long-anticipated loan deal for Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha to Cardiff has finally gone through. The 21-year-old has joined the Bluebirds for the rest of the season and should get a chance to prove his Premier League quality after a frustrating six months at United. Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “He has pace, power, technical ability and goes past people. He will bring that little final bit to find pockets of space and produce a bit of magic.” Sunderland have signed Scotland midfielder Liam Bridcutt from Brighton on a three-and-a-half-year deal for an undisclosed fee, while Southampton striker Dani Osvaldo has moved closer to joining Juventus as he underwent a medical with the Italian league leaders. The 28-year-old Italy international arrived in a club-record deal from Roma last summer but has failed to live up to the billing and was recently involved in a training-ground bust-up. Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier has confirmed he intends to stay with the French club following interest from Newcastle. “I don’t intend to leave. It’s not a priority, even if the offers from big clubs make you think,” Grenier said on Lyon’s website.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers defended the club’s way of doing transfer business after criticism from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk over their handling of negotiations over a move for winger Yehven Konoplyanka. “The club did everything possible to get the player in,” said Rodgers after the club’s 1-1 draw at West Brom. “In every aspect – the finance, we had our chief scout and managing director and doctor out there to conclude the deal – and from our point categorically Ian Ayre (managing director) did a brilliant job trying to negotiate. “I’ve heard the problem mentioned was about the money but that was not a problem. It just wasn’t to be. “I feel really sorry for the player because he was obviously desperate to come but it’s gone now and we will review it in the summer.” Asked whether, considering the difficulties associated with the transfer, they would try again when the window reopened Rodgers added: “If we feel the player can improve us we are a professional club. “There is obviously going to be a greater market to look at then but it wouldn’t stop us. “It is of no consequence now. I don’t focus on that. There is no point in me looking back.” Rodgers denied he was angered by the failure to land either Konoplyanka or previous target Mohamed Salah, who went to Chelsea after they offered a better deal at the last minute. “Whatever frustrations I have I would never let you know,” said the Reds boss. “This is a club I want to keep together for the longer term and will never be broken by stuff written in the papers. “If I have an issue or a problem I don’t need to ring up journalists and give them snippets out there, if I have an issue I’ll speak with the owner. “I said it would’ve been nice to have got some reinforcements in but that wasn’t to be the case and so yesterday has no consequence now. “I’ve got to work with the players I have here. We have 14 games to go, we are still in a great position and the squad is very focused on our objectives so I can’t afford to think about what we could or couldn’t have done.” A deal for the Ukraine international fell through on deadline day. In a round of claim and counter-claim Dnipro suggested the Reds did not transfer the necessary funds in time, but Press Association Sport understands the money was sent at least two hours before the UK’s 11pm deadline. The move, with the player’s medical passed and terms agreed, was blocked by the club’s owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who refused to sign off the necessary paperwork, which is believed to have prompted a subsequent apology to Liverpool from Dnipro officials. Press Association
Under-fire Tim Sherwood plans to give Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy something to think about by ending the season with six successive wins. Press Association Louis van Gaal and Mauricio Pochettino are favourites to come in but the former midfielder was keen to avoid talking about his future before and after the 5-1 win at White Hart Lane, preferring instead to focus on ending the season with a bang. “This could have been a sticky game,” Sherwood told Spurs TV. “We saw this lot go up to Anfield and Liverpool were lucky to come away with three points. “We destroyed them tonight, really did move the ball around well and should have scored more goals. “It is unheard of really and hopefully we can do that in the next five games. We think we can win the next games so let’s see where it will take us.” Stoke are the only top-10 side Tottenham face in their final matches, with West Brom, Fulham, West Ham and Aston Villa their other opponents. Those fixtures would appear to make realistic a points haul that would heap pressure on Arsenal and Everton in the race for the final Champions League berth. The Gunners currently sit fourth with a five-point cushion over Spurs in sixth, although it is Everton that Sherwood believes are the front runners to end the season in the top four. “I don’t know [if we can sneak into fourth],” Sherwood said. “You know what, stop thinking about the top four, we’re just thinking about winning the next five games. The Spurs head coach has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, with the situation appearing to reach a tipping point before Monday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Sunderland. The build-up was dominated by a report that claimed Sherwood’s tenure would end this summer, regardless of how results went between now and the end of the campaign. “Hopefully someone else slips up and they are going to have to do that because Everton have been magnificent, haven’t they? “The way they have built their club and team, they’ve gone about their business very, very quietly. “They acquired three loan signings and made themselves a title challenger, really, with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry – probably two of the best players in the Premier League last season – and Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona, who could be anything. “They went about their transfer business fantastically well and they’ve put themselves in a position. “I think Roberto Martinez has done a tremendous job so it is going to be difficult to catch them. I think they are going to be the lead runners on that.” While Tottenham are upwardly mobile again, the only direction Sunderland look to be heading is down as the season enters the home straight. Bottom of the table and seven points adrift of safety, the only glimmer of hope comes from the fact they have two games in hand on many of their relegation rivals. Sunderland boss Gus Poyet admits they will need a “miracle” to stave off relegation and rejected suggestions their cup exertions have seen them suffer in the league. “We are where we are because of the cup competitions, because if we had not been on that cup run, we would have been down already,” he said. “That cup run helped us in January, which was our best month. “That put us in a great situation to take advantage, but as soon as we lost that run, the team went backwards dramatically – backwards in decision making and basic things. “One of the first things I was told when I came to England was, ‘Follow the runners – stop the cross’. How many times did we stop the cross today? What kind of effort did we put in to do that?”