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Hazard appears to rule out January move to Madrid

Chelsea's Eden Hazard did little to douse speculation over a move to Real Madrid on Thursday, although the forward appeared to rule out a mid-season move.

The 27-year-old, who has spoken of his daily quandary over his future, was speaking at a media conference on national team duty with Belgium, broadcast on Sky Sports News.

It was put to Hazard that to win the Ballon d'Or – as the world's best player – he would have to play in Spain.

"That's why I want to go, maybe," said Hazard, who was smiling.

Asked if that move might happen in January, Hazard said: "No."

Hazard has been in sparkling form this season and was asked about persistent rumours of a switch to Real after last Sunday's win at Southampton.

Hazard, whose Chelsea contract runs until June 2020, said: "Real Madrid is the best club in the world. It is my dream since I was a kid.

"Sometimes in my head, I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes I think I want to stay. It is a hard decision. It is my future."

The Belgium playmaker is not short of confidence at present and asked on Thursday whether he was the world's best player on form, his answer was unequivocal.

"Yes," he said.

"The team is helping me a lot also. I can improve for sure. We can always improve in football. We can score more goals, more assists."

Hazard has scored seven Premier League goals in eight starts, plus a sensational strike in the Carabao Cup third round win at Liverpool, to make a fine start to life under Blues head coach Maurizio Sarri.

He joined Chelsea in June 2012 from Lille. His current contract, signed in February 2015, runs until the end of next season.

Hazard acknowledges this next contract is crucial, so he is taking his time to consider whether to remain with Chelsea or move on.

He was heavily linked with a move to the Bernabeu after helping Belgium to third place at the World Cup, but no switch materialised.

Reports from Spain earlier this week suggested Real would try to prise Hazard from Chelsea in January, although such a move would come at a premium price.

And it may be that Real would be prepared to wait until next summer, when Hazard will have just 12 months of his contract remaining, to make their move, knowing Chelsea would be reluctant to risk losing him for nothing the following year.

One of the many potential obstacles to the deal would be if Antonio Conte moved to Real as head coach.
Julen Lopetegui's position is reportedly precarious and Conte has been linked as a potential successor.

Hazard hinted at being frustrated with the Italian at times last season.

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O’Connor brothers steer Ballintubber to Mayo SFC title

Ballintubber 0-12 Breaffy 1-8

A brilliant point in the 59th minute from Diarmuid O’Connor turned out to be the match-winning score as Ballintubber reclaimed the Mayo senior club football championship title at MacHale Park, Castlebar tonight.

The former Young Footballer of the Year fired over a fantastic point from the left wing that turned out to be the last score of an attritional decider as Breaffy’s long wait for a Moclair Cup went on.

Mayo’s talisman, Cillian O’Connor, shot seven points (six from frees) and delivered a man of the match performance as Ballintubber justified their pre-match favourite’s tag.

Their first county title success since 2014 was masterminded by their 36 year-old manager, Kevin Johnson, a native of Sligo, and means the Abbeysiders have now four county senior titles in nine seasons.

Ballintubber led at half-time by 0-6 to 1-2 despite getting off to the worst possible start in front of a crowd of 8,311 spectators.

Breaffy’s Peter Dravins tucked away a penalty inside three minutes after Aidan O’Shea was bundled over inside the square.

However, the outsiders were unable to build any sort of momentum as Ballintubber gradually got into their stride.

Four frees from the unerring Cillian O’Connor helped them to regain the initiative while Stephen O’Malley and captain Damien Coleman were also on target.

Meanwhile, down at the other end, Breaffy goalkeeper, Rob Hennelly, was off target with three long-range place kicks as his side struggled to get the scoreboard moving.

In fact, their only score of the opening half from play came from Gareth Dunne as Ballintubber’s well-organised defence stood firm.

The second half was a much more entertaining affair than the first as both teams threw off the shackles and started to play with more directness and pace.

Cillian O’Connor tagged on three further points from frees as Breaffy’s backline continued to foul inside his range.

But Ballintubber were unable to pull away despite their territorial dominance, and Breaffy stayed in touch with points from Tommy Reilly, Gary Fadden and Conor O’Shea.

Goalkeeper Rob Hennelly also broke his duck when he finally landed a long-range free and the tension was almost unbearable in the closing stages as Breaffy drew level through a Conor O’Shea free.

Breaffy substitute Colum Dravins and Ballintubber’s Ciaran Gavin were also both shown black cards as the stakes continued to mount.

Down the home stretch Ballintubber, playing their third game in 14 days, showed no ill-effects of their two marathon semi-finals, both of which had gone to extra-time.

Instead they managed to create a scoring chance for Diarmuid O’Connor who split the posts in style from 35 metres out on the left wing in the final minute of normal time.

Breaffy pushed hard during the five minutes of additional time but were unable to dig out an equaliser, with Aidan O’Shea off target with a free.

The West Mayo side have now lost all three of the county senior finals they have appeared in, having also finished second best against Castlebar Mitchels in both 2013 and 2015.

Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, C Hallinan, B Murphy; D Coleman (0-1), M Plunkett, R O’Connor; JGibbons, D O’Connor (0-1); C Gavin, A Dillon (0-1), A Plunkett; B Walsh, C O’Connor (0-7, 6fs), S O’Malley (0-2).

Subs: M Kelly for Loftus (35); J Finnerty for A Plunkett (35); P O’Connor for Gavin BC, 53); J Geraghty for R O’Connor (57).

Breaffy: R Hennelly (0-1, ’45); M Dervan, J Minogue, C Kelly; K Mulchrone, S O’Shea, D Cannon; M Ruane, P Dravins (1-0); R Fadden (0-1); A O’Shea, R Martyn; T O’Reilly (0-2), C O’Shea (0-3, 3fs), G Dunne (0-1).

Subs: M Hall for Martyn (35); C Dravins for Dervan (39); G Jennings for C Dravins (BC, 41); G Walsh for P Dravins (50); S McDermott for Fadden (55); D Morrin for O’ Reilly.

Referee: V Neary (Bonniconlon)

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Jury Duty delivers American Grand National for Elliott

Gordon Elliott added yet another Grand National to his CV as the Meath trainer won the American one in Far Hills with Jury Duty on Saturday night.

The American Grand National was dominated by Irish-trained horses as Jury Duty and the Emmet Mullins-trained Tornado Watch went toe-to-toe coming down to the final fence.

It was Jury Duty and Robbie Power who found more after the last to win by three-and-a-quarter lengths. He was returned the 13-10 favourite.

Amazing – American Grand National glory for @gelliott_racing and @Robbie_Power_ with Jury Duty!pic.twitter.com/jLGQbcjRTV

— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 20, 2018

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Niall Kennedy grinds down Barrett in Boston

Niall Kennedy earned a unanimous decision victory against Brendan Barrett in their heavyweight fight in Boston.

The Wexford garda, competing on a card that included compatriots Sean McComb, Katie Taylor and James Tennyson, was in control for much of the contest but had to withstand a final-round rally from the previously undefeated American.

It brings 34-year-old Kennedy's record to 12-0-1 and went down a treat at the Garden in front of a partisan crowd with a strong Irish presence.

Earlier super-lightweight McComb stopped Carlos Galindo in the third to bring his pro record to 4-0.

McComb pummelled Galindo with body shots forcing the Peruvian down two times before the referee called it.

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Hamilton will start US Grand Prix in pole position

Lewis Hamilton completed one half of the job to secure a historic fifth World Championship by putting his Mercedes on pole position for the US Grand Prix.

Hamilton will seal the title in Austin, Texas on Sunday if he takes the chequered flag and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel fails to finish second.

The German was slower only than Hamilton in a nail-biting qualifying session, but he will be demoted to fifth after incurring a grid penalty for his failure to slow sufficiently under red flags in Friday's practice.

Kimi Raikkonen will subsequently join Hamilton on the front row with the Briton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas third.

Mercedes did not appear to have the pace to beat Ferrari following the early phases at a cold and blustery Circuit of the Americas.

But as he so often does, Hamilton saved his very best for last, edging out Vettel by just 0.061 seconds for the 81st pole of his career.

"That was very important, and that was close," Hamilton said. "I knew it was edgy between us and it was going to require solid laps.

"The second lap was better and it enabled me to pull it out of the bag. I was very adamant that I was going to do a better second lap so I am very happy with that."

Vettel, who swore over the radio in frustration after discovering he had lost to Hamilton, added: "It was a bit of a shame that we missed out by that little time.

"Given the last couple of weeks we have had I am happy we are in range."

Max Verstappen damaged his Red Bull on the kerbs at the exit of Turn 15 in the first qualifying session and played no further part.

His rear suspension was broken and the Dutchman's crew were unable to complete the repairs before the start of Q2.

That was good news for Daniel Ricciardo, who has been out-performed by Verstappen in all of the 11 qualifying rounds since the Monaco Grand Prix. The Australian will start fourth following Vettel's penalty.

But there was bad news again for McLaren with both of their drivers falling at the first hurdle.

The Woking team will be desperate for the season to end and so, too, will Fernando Alonso as his wonderful career fizzles out with a whimper.

The two-time world champion, who has just four races remaining before he retires at the end of the year, qualified 16th. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was slowest of all.

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Mark Davis stuns O’Sullivan to make English Open final

Ronnie O'Sullivan crashed out of the English Open at the semi-final stage after a shock 6-1 defeat to veteran Mark Davis.

O'Sullivan, who had courted controversy by deriding the Crawley venue earlier this week, had no answer to the 46-year-old who reeled off five straight frames to reach his first major final.

Davis will face former world champion Stuart Bingham in Sunday's final after the 42-year-old defeated Steven Maguire 6-3.

Maguire nudged into a 3-2 lead after the mid-session interval but Bingham stayed cool to reel off four straight frames and reach his first ranking final of the year.

Imagine playing like this against Ronnie O'Sullivan!
Mark Davis looks at home at @K2Crawley 👏#EnglishOpen pic.twitter.com/Od8nTow8S8

— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) October 20, 2018

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