McQuaid tore into Cookson’s manifesto 24 hours after it was unveiled in Paris on Monday, describing it as “half baked, fundamentally flawed and financially impractical”. Cookson, the British Cycling president since 1996, said in a statement released on Wednesday: “The response from Pat McQuaid to my manifesto has once again demonstrated exactly why restoring credibility to the UCI and cycling in general was the number one recommendation of the recent Deloitte consultation with the sport’s stakeholders.” Brian Cookson has responded to Pat McQuaid’s attack on his bid for the presidency of the International Cycling Union as the leadership battle intensifies. The statement continued: “His bullying and haranguing style seems designed to antagonise everyone who does not share his approach to the governance of world cycling. Yesterday’s release was a reminder of the sometimes absurd and entirely counter-productive feuds in which he has engaged.” Cookson is so far the only person to challenge McQuaid’s leadership as the Irishman, who has been UCI president since 2005, seeks to be elected for a third term in September. Several pledges have been made by Cookson, including to tackle the perceived failings of the eras of McQuaid and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, with anti-doping at the top of the agenda. Cookson insisted he would not counter McQuaid’s attack, but stressed his belief that the situation is clear ahead of September’s elections. “As we enter the next stage of the presidential election, it is clear that the choice that has to be made is between two different approaches to the work of the UCI and two different visions for our sport,” Cookson added. “I believe in a path based on credibility, trust and change and not one littered with a seemingly endless round of doubts and discrepancies where relations with important stakeholders are conducted by press release and punctuated by legal letters. I continue to hope the presidential contest can be one in which cycling can take pride.” Both McQuaid and Verbruggen’s reigns have been tarnished by systematic doping in the sport, epitomised by drugs cheat Lance Armstrong’s domination of the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005. Cookson has pledged to investigate claims of complicity between the UCI leadership and drugs cheats, allegations which McQuaid and Verbruggen strenuously deny. Press Association
While the Northern Irish recorded a 3-1 victory over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn, their two biggest threats in their Euro 2016 qualifying group took a point apiece as the Hungarians held previous leaders Romania to a stalemate. It meant O’Neill’s side climbed to the top of the Group F pile, one point clear of Romania and four ahead of Hungary with only three fixtures remaining. Press Association Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill spent Friday evening trying to avoid knowing how Group F rivals Hungary were faring, but there is no escaping what lies in store for his country on Monday if they defeat the eastern Europeans in Belfast. “Laffers was a wee bit down the gears,” O’Neill acknowledged. “It’s only natural with his first game this season, coming back off the injury, he will certainly be better for the 78 minutes. Getting the goal’s an extra bonus for him as well. “Jonny will as well, although I thought Jonny had a very good game. It’s two players coming in and it’s virtually their first game of the season. They handled it extremely well. “All of those things combined are going to help us with the game on Monday night.” O’Neill had spoken before kick-off about wanting Romania to emerge victorious to enhance Northern Ireland’s prospects in a three-horse race, yet he was happy enough with what transpired in Budapest anyway as it now means a win at Windsor Park in two days’ time will ensure the hosts book a place in their first ever European Championship finals next summer. “Towards the end they were telling me things that I didn’t really want to hear – the ones in the dugout,” O’Neill said of being kept abreast of developments in the clash between Hungary and Romania. “As soon as we came in we knew it was done. I’ve been in this situation as a player where you’re dealing with other results, it wasn’t like that scenario because there’s still so much football to play. The most important thing was to focus on ourselves. “But the result in Budapest is fantastic for us. We’ll look at the highlights and the game but we know Hungary very well, we know where their threat is. We’ll be able to deal with that threat. “The players have already gone there and won. They know how to win in this situation. It’s a situation that everyone’s looking forward to.” O’Neill is also confident he can expect big performances from two players who have been integral to Northern Ireland throughout this qualifying campaign. Defender Jonny Evans, who moved to West Brom last weekend having been marginalised at Manchester United, and fit-again striker Kyle Lafferty both made their first appearances of the season against the Faroes. The latter in particular has become his nation’s go-to man over the past couple of seasons and struck his sixth goal of the qualifiers on Friday, although it was the fact he came through 78 minutes unscathed that O’Neill believes will bode well for Monday.