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The Morning Score: Wednesday

Graeme McDowell out to take his chance, end of the road for The Bull and Real Madrid players pull a fierce stroke. You have to see this.

Image: (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

1. #END OF AN ERA? John Hayes left the Ireland camp yesterday as speculation grew that the Munster man may have played his last game for his country, says the Star’s Derek Foley.

Declan Kidney decided to release Hayes to his province rather than keep in in line for a run against Argentina this Sunday in Dublin.

2. #CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Arsenal are 90 minutes away from a European exit after they lost 2-0 away to Braga last night – with Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue kicked off the park. Chelsea beat minnows Zilina 2-1 at Stamford Bridge while AC Milan sealed their spot in the last 16 after a less-than-convincing 2-0 victory over Auxerre in Burgundy.

3. #McILROY Rory McIlroy is not certain he will compete in the Players Championship – often dubbed golf’s ‘unofficial fifth major’ – in May. ‘I’m going to play Quail Hollow the week before (he is the defending champion) and then there are big tournaments in Europe,” he said in Dubai earlier.

4. #McDOWELL McIlroy’s pal however, Graeme McDowell is gunning for the Race to Dubai title. He believes Martin Kaymer has handed him a great opportunity to end his golfing year as Europe’s No 1.

Intriguingly, with just two tournaments left in the tour season he trails the German by £312,000 in the money list. Kaymer, though, has chosen to ‘put his feet up’ for a week rather than playing in the UBS Hong Kong Open.

5. #ROONEY Wayne Rooney has defended the stance he took before signing a new contract, repeating before his probable first Manchester United start for two months against Rangers at Ibrox tonight that he harboured “concerns” about the club’s ambitions before committing himself to his £200,000-a-week deal, according to the Irish Daily Star.

6. #BANS Match bans are expected to introduced at next year’s GAA Congress – to replace the archaic system of time-based suspension, the Irish Sun reports.

7. #FAI Packie Bonnar’s future as FAI technical director is in the balance this morning. The Irish Daily Mail’s Philip Quinn reports that the Italia ’90 hero may be ‘about to leave his post’. With his contract to wind down soon, cuts at Abbotstown may mean an end to his tenure.

8. #AFL Aussie Rules stars are losing interest in Gaelic footballers, according to super scout Ricky Nixon in this morning’s Star. The Irish Experiment now hinges on the success or otherwise of Tommy Walsh, Niall McKeever and James O’Reilly, he believes.

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9. #CUNNING On course for a comfortable win in Amsterdam – and therefore qualified – Real Madrid’s played out the clock in a manner only a Mourinho team could.

Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos – both on yellow cards – deliberately wasted time, got sent off and will now miss the meaningless last group game. They will return, of course, for the knock-out stages with clear records. UEFA are likely to call shenanigans.

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