St. Patrick's Athletic’s Robbie Benson scoring the winning penalty against Bohemians in front of 37,000 spectators at the FAI Cup Final in the Aviva Stadium on Nov. 28 last. INPHO/RYAN BYRNE

European games bring clubs rewards

League of Ireland clubs have had some great results in Europe this season, which financially are very rewarding and the European wins also improve the domestic league’s UEFA co-efficient for rankings next season. Winning the League to qualify for the Champions League qualifying rounds is very important as clubs that win its domestic competition now gets three chances in Europe. 

Invariably LOI clubs don’t make much progress in the Champions League and they drop down to the Europa League where they are paired with clubs they can compete with. Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk have both qualified for the lucrative Europa League group stage in recent seasons. 

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Irish clubs that start in the Champions League exit the Europa League, they then drop down to the new Conference League, which is probably the proper level for a League of Ireland club. In the old days winning the FAI Cup guaranteed a club entry to the Cup Winners’ Cup, but that competition is no longer there. Now the top three clubs in the Premier Division and the FAI Cup winners get the European places. However, if the FAI Cup winners have already qualified for Europe then the club that finishes 4th in the League, gets the last European place.'

There is still there is still plenty of interest in the FAI Cup knockout competition, which throws up some David vs Goliath clashes and attracts a big crowd to the Aviva Stadium for the final (on Nov. 28 last, 37,126 people turned up to see St. Patrick’s Athletic beat Bohemians).  This weekend the David vs. Goliath clashes include Shelbourne’s away game at Donegal non-League club Bonagee United. The Reds’ Damien Duff says he would love to win the FAI Cup as a manager and so no doubt would hate to be on the wrong end of an upset. Similarly, Bohemians are away to Lucan United, but that game could be switched to Dalymount Park. The only all-Premier Division game sees Drogheda United host Shamrock Rovers. 



Amanda Serrano will, after all, fight in Europe next month, but not against Katie Taylor. Instead the unified featherweight world champion will bid to become the undisputed queen of the division when she takes on the undefeated IBF champion Sarah Mahfoud at the Manchester Arena on Sept. 24.The Serrano-Mahfoud unification bout was due to be staged in New York’s Madison Square Garden on August 6 as a co-feature alongside a celebrity fight involving her manager Jake Paul and Hasim Rahman Jr. The show fell through at the last minute admit claims from Paul that his opponent had no chance of making the weight though this is hotly disputed by Rahman.



The Dublin GAA County Board last week put an end to weeks of wild rumours when they confirmed that Dessie Farrell is going to stay as the county’s senior football manager until 2024. Farrell has completed three years in the role and there was speculation about his future since Dublin lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry last month. It was mooted that Farrell could be replaced following Dublin’s relegation from division one of the National Football League and two successive All-Ireland semi-final defeats. Farrell led the Dubs to All-Ireland success in 2020 during his first year in the role having succeeded Jim Gavin. Meanwhile Declan Darcy, who was mentioned as a possible replacement for Farrell, is reported to be joining Leinster Rugby’s backroom team.

Meanwhile in Kerry it looks like Tomás O Sé is going to replace Declan O’Sullivan as under 20 manager. O Sé was a selector with John Maughan in Offaly last year.



New Waterford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald will have to plan without brothers Kieran and Shane Bennett in 2023. Their father Pat Bennett has confirmed that the siblings are destined to spend the coming season in Australia, with Kieran heading Down Under next week and Shane set to follow in January. But a third brother, Stephen, will still be available to the Déise. Bennett senior, who recently managed Ferns St Aidan’s to win their first-ever Wexford senior title, was part of Davy’s backroom team in Waterford in his first term in charge. He said: ‘‘As a Waterford supporter I am delighted, Davy is a proven winner. He has got a CV better than anybody. My lads are really excited even though two of them are going to Australia, so it will be only Stephen left. I think the players in Waterford are over the moon and delighted he is coming in. Davy is going to bring them to a new level so they’re really looking forward to it.”



Irish all-rounder Kevin O’Brien has announced his retirement from international cricket after falling out of contention for this year’s T20 World Cup. The 38-year-old, who famously blasted the Irish to victory over England in a 2011 World Cup group match with a 50-ball century, has decided to call it a day ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia, which gets under way in October, after slipping out of the selection reckoning. O’Brien, who for 12 years played for Ireland alongside older brother Niall, said: “ I announce my retirement from international cricket after 16 years and 389 caps for my country. I had hoped to finish my career at the T20 World Cup in Australia, but having not been picked for the Irish squad since last year’s World Cup, I feel the selectors and management are looking elsewhere. He  had spells with Surrey, Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire, played 153 one-day internationals, 110 T20 internationals and three Tests for Ireland. The Dubliner scored 9,048 runs, including our first Test hundred, a second-innings knock of 118 against Pakistan in 2018 and took 276 wickets as well as 181 catches.



College Football returns to Dublin on Saturday next with Aer Lingus College Football Classic at the  Aviva Stadium. The clash between Northwestern University (Wildcats) and University of Nebraska (Cornhuskers) will mark the first time either of these two titans of college football have ever played in Ireland. So can expect to see a lot of red in Dublin 4 on Saturday as The University of Nebraska fans are renowned for taking over stadiums, home and away, with their famous “Sea of Red.”



Former Armagh footballer Jamie Clarke has made the switch to soccer, signing with Irish League club Newry City FC. Clarke, 33, who played his club football  Crossmaglen Rangers, has also played in New York and Australia. Newry manager Darren Mullen said: ‘‘Jamie is obviously well known for his exploits on the Gaelic football pitch but he has shown in the short time he has been with us that he can add something to our attacking line up. He is a smart skilful player and is keen to show what he can do at this level of football.’’



Waterford GAA are planning to be the first county to commence major post-Covid stadium redevelopment work with the initial phase of a Walsh Park facelift due to commence in October. Work on phase one, which would see a new roof, new seating and a revamped press area in the existing stand on the southern end of the ground and the erection of an uncovered stand on the northern end, has been put out to tender and officials hope they can get under way in around two months’ time. A widening of the existing pitch, from its current 80 metres to 84 metres, is also planned. Waterford Secretary Pat Flynn said: “It’s gone to tender but there’s still a long way to go.’’ Waterford’s intention to proceed at this point comes after Meath and Kildare suspended their plans to redevelop Páirc Tailteann in Navan and St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge earlier this year due to rising construction costs.



Kieran McGeeney is to continue as Armagh senior football manager for a ninth season. The Orchard county’s All-Ireland winning captain was appointed manager in 2015 as successor to Paul Grimley. McGeeney now becomes the second longest-serving inter-county football manager after Clare’s Colm Collins. Armagh made great strides under McGeeney this year, finishing third in Division 1 of the National Football League before going on to reach the All-Ireland quarter finals via the back door, where they lost to Galway on penalties.



Another link with the famous Down All-Ireland winning team of 1960 has been severed with the passing of Kieran Denvir. The Kilclief native was a talented footballer and hurler who lined out at corner forward on the first Down team to win an Ulster final in 1959. The following year he came on as a sub as the Mourne County beat Kerry to take the Sam Maguire Cup across the border for the first time. Kieran also played UCD, Ballina Stephenites in Mayo and Ulster in the Railway Cup.