Qualifiers: Clare edge Westmeath and Laois beat Offaly

David Tubridy celebrates a crucial goal which sent Clare through
David Tubridy celebrates a crucial goal which sent Clare through

Clare and Laois came through their third-round ties in the All-Ireland Football Championship Qualifiers on Saturday, beating Westmeath and Offaly respectively.

Westmeath 0-15 Clare 1-13

A second-half goal from David Tubridy proved the difference as Clare reached the fourth round of the qualifiers with a narrow victory over Westmeath in Mullingar. Colm Collins’ charges held on at the death, despite a late fightback from the Lake County, to reach the next round, and there will be a real belief in the Munster county that they can now reach the Super 8s.

The first-half was a tight affair, with the sides going in level at half-time, 0-8 apiece. As the teams went point-for-point, it was eventually Clare who found the breakthrough with Tubridy’s 47th-minute strike giving them a four-point lead.

The O’Byrne Cup and Division 3 champions did rally, scoring two late points in injury-time to narrow the gap to just one, but Clare held out for a famous victory.

Eoin Cleary and Gary Brenna celebrate at full-time
Eoin Cleary and Gary Brenna celebrate at full-time

Laois 0-20 Offaly 0-15

The midlands neighbours met in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday evening, and it was John Sugrue’s charges who triumphed to reach round four of the qualifiers for the second year in succession.

John Maughan’s side fancied their chances of an upset away to their provincial rivals, and were right in contention for large periods. Offaly’s starting full-forward line of Bernard Allen, Niall and Ruairi McNamee kicked 0-10 between them, as they asked questions of the Laois defence.

The sides were level at the break, but the 2018 Leinster finalists had too much for the Faithful County in the second half, as Paul and Donal Kingston scored 10 points between them to guide Laois to victory

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku joined Inter Milan from Manchester United in the summer

Italian football authorities and their disciplinary systems to combat racism are “not fit for purpose”, says the chief of anti-discriminatory body Fare.

The claim has been made after Cagliari were cleared of racist chanting towards Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku in a Serie A match.

Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants by Cagliari fans when he scored a penalty for his side in a 2-1 win.

“The rot is deep,” Fare executive director Piara Powar told BBC Sport.

“We believe the Italian authorities and the disciplinary system is simply not fit for purpose.

“Whether it is the FIGC [Italian Football Federation] or Serie A, they have failed to protect countless players from racism over the past year and have no meaningful response to the endemic racism in stadiums.

“There are no visible campaigns, no progressive fan leaders, as well as apathy and prejudice among the media.

“No-one is taking the issue seriously – no-one apart from the players, the victims themselves, and a few allies who have been courageous enough to stand up.”

Serie A insisted it was “seriously and constantly engaged in activities against racism”.

It added: “I can confirm our maximum effort to fight racism. We did a lot in the past and we’ll do [a lot] in the future as we announced some days ago a campaign about this that we will develop in the next month.”

The FIGC has been contacted for a response.

The Fare Network, an organisation trying to fight inequality in football, says it has contacted the Italian FA to try to work with it and is awaiting a reply.

In the meantime, Fare’s work to combat racism in Italy involves working with a government agency, non-government organisations and other parts of society in the country.

Belgium international Lukaku said the abuse he suffered showed the game was “going backwards” and he hoped “the football federations all over the world react strongly on all cases of discrimination”.

The report into the incident conceded that chants, shouts and whistles were directed at Lukaku by Cagliari fans, but said they were not sufficient in “size and perception” to merit punishing the club and its supporters.

Anti-racism charity Kick It Out said: “This is a cowardly decision from Serie A and the Italian FA, in response to disgusting racist abuse aimed at Romelu Lukaku.

“We can only assume that the Italian authorities do not care that they are effectively endorsing this behaviour.

“As they refuse to take action against repeated racist abuse by the same group of supporters, it’s about time Uefa stepped in and showed some leadership.”

This is the third time Calgliari have been investigated for alleged racist abuse in the past two years after cases involving Moise Kean, the Italy forward now at Everton, and his then Juventus team-mate, France international Blaise Matuidi, but no action was taken over any of the incidents.

‘No basic understanding of racism’

A group of Inter Milan fans claimed Cagliari supporters were showing Lukaku a form of “respect” when they aimed monkey chants at him.

A statement from Inter fan group Curva Nord said “Italian fans are not racist” and the abuse was gamesmanship.

“It shows you that there is no basic understanding of what racism is and why what they do to black players is racist,” said Fare Eastern Europe development officer Pavel Klymenko.

“There has to be a lot of educational efforts put in.

Granit Xhaka

His own performances raise questions about his suitability but his petulant, goading reaction to his 61st-minute substitution by youngster Bukayo Saka only played into the hands of those who believe he does not have the character for the role.

Of course, it will have hurt a proud professional to hear the mixture of delight and sarcasm that greeted his number coming up, but his response was provocative and met with loud condemnation from Arsenal’s fans.

Arsenal had conceded a two-goal lead so there was a sense of urgency that was not reflected in his slow stroll towards the technical area, anger growing with every laboured stride.

He then waved his arms towards Arsenal’s fans before foolishly cupping his ear and going through the most cursory of gestures with Emery, also appearing to exchange words with supporters. Xhaka then took off his shirt and went straight down the tunnel.

It summed up the discontent lurking close to the surface at Arsenal, with further evidence provided by the loud chants for exiled German star Mesut Ozil as they fought in vain for the winner.

Arsenal are in fifth but a gap is now opening up – four points to Chelsea in fourth – and this was another display that exposed their fragility and soft centre as that early advantage was cast aside.

This was another unsatisfactory 90 minutes for Emery and Arsenal.

Palace show grit once more

This draw continues Palace’s fine start to the season as they enjoy a top-six place after this battling point.

Manager Roy Hodgson will be mortified at conceding those two early goals from corners but will also be delighted at the way Palace dug deep and showed great reserves of resilience to fight back.

It was inevitable Zaha would be a central figure after Arsenal’s summer pursuit of the player fell flat and he reluctantly stayed at Selhurst Park when a move to Everton failed to materialise.

And so it proved in the incident that changed the game just after the half hour as he was initially cautioned for diving before VAR correctly ruled he had been dragged down by Chambers.

This was all the encouragement Palace needed, playing on Arsenal’s nerves and plundering the equaliser through Ayew.

Hodgson himself accepts Palace are unlikely to stay in this lofty position but there is certainly enough experience and threat in this side to ensure they will not have any serious concerns at the wrong end of the Premier League table.

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June 2019