Jamie McGrath at a Republic of Ireland press conference on Wednesday. [Inpho/Ryan Byrne]

Fans head for Amsterdam

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has stuck with most of his regulars for what are likely to be his last two games as manager, a Euro 2024 qualifier against Holland in Amsterdam tomorrow and a friendly against New Zealand in Dublin next week. Troy Parrott receives a recall after some good performances while on loan from Spurs to Dutch club Excelsior Rotterdam. Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher comes back into the squad following an injury which ruled him out for the games against Greece and Gibraltar in October. Kenny has received a lot of criticism from some sections of the Irish media, but the majority of the fans still support him and we are told there is huge Irish contingent heading for the Amsterdam Arena on Saturday night. 

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If the Saturday’s game doesn’t end well, next Tuesday’s friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva could be a glum affair. James McClean, who has announced his retirement, is sure of a good reception as he returns to win his 103rd cap and the Derryman is likely to captain the team for what will be Kenny’s 40th game in charge.

Meanwhile Wigan Athletic winger Jordan Jones and Oxford United defender Ciaron Brown have both been included in the Northern Ireland squad for their Euro 2024 qualifiers against Finland and Denmark. Both players missed the October games against San Marino and Slovenia. Manager Michael O’Neill said: ‘‘The squad almost picks itself at the moment, to be honest, there are very little changes. We have brought Jordan Jones in, but unfortunately the players who were on the periphery are still unavailable to us due to injury.’’ After playing the Finns in Helsinki on Nov. 17 Northern Ireland’s final game in the group is against Denmark at Windsor Park on Nov. 20. Like The Republic, the North have won only twice in this campaign, home and away to San Marino.



In the Championship Will Smallbone got Southampton’s first goal in their 2-1 win over West Brom, but the Irish international had to go off injured in the second half. The Saints are now up to fourth, 9 points behind joint leaders Leicester City and Ipswich Town, with Leeds United in third place. Elsewhere Callum Robinson got his first goal of the season for Cardiff, but the Bluebirds were beaten 3-2 at home by Norwich with the winner coming from Ireland’s Adam Idah in the 84th minute. 



A great weekend for the domestic game with a record crowd of 43,881 at the Aviva Stadium to see St Patrick’s Athletic beat Bohemians 3-1 in the FAI Cup final. The previous record of 41,238 stood since 1945. It was the Saints second cup win in three years, having also beaten their north Dublin rivals in a penalty shoot-out in 2021. St Pat’s had already secured a place in the European Conference League next season thanks to their third place finish in the League of Ireland and their win means that Shelbourne, who finished 4th in the League, will now also qualify for Europe next year. So a great season for 40-year-old manager Jon Daly, in what in his first season in charge of a League of Ireland club. Daly replaced Tim Clancy as Pat’s manager in May at a time when the Saints were struggling and he turned their season around. 

A good weekend overall for Shelbourne fans who also saw their manager Damien Duff agree a new contract after Shels’ new backer, Turkish businessman Acun Ilicali and the owner of Hull City, pulled out. Ilicali wanted to bring players from abroad, while Duff wanted to continue with local talent, so once Ilicali’s departure was confirmed Duff agreed a new contract. Hull lent two players to Shels during the season and they made a big difference towards the end of the season. Now Dublin businessman Mickey O’Rourke has taken over Ilicali’s shareholding in The Reds.

And in other domestic news, Waterford will play in the League of Ireland Premier Division next season. The Blues beat Cork City 2-1 in a promotion/relegation play off in Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.



Irish manager Stephen Kenny has played down speculation linking him with the vacant manager’s job at Lincoln City. The League One club have been without a permanent manager since parting ways with former Irish international Mark Kennedy in October. Kenny said: ‘‘You can be linked to any job. The only thing that I am concerned about is managing Ireland. That is the biggest job.’’ Kenny said that he would not be making a “plea” to the FAI in order to keep his job into the next campaign. ‘‘I am not making a plea, I am certainly not doing that. My contract is up after the New Zealand game.’’



Former Tottenham and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings appeared fit and well as he unveiled a statue of himself in Newry last Wednesday, two days after being taken to hospital in London. On Monday night the 78-year-old was taken ill at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ahead of Spurs’ game against Chelsea, but was released later that evening and travelled back to his home town for Wednesday’s unveiling on Kildare Street, Newry. Jennings said: ‘‘It's just a brilliant occasion to have this back in my home city.’’ Among the former stars in attendance in Newry were Northern Ireland colleagues Billy Hamilton and Gerry Armstrong, former Spurs captain Ledley King and Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Brady, who played with Jennings with Arsenal.



Robbie Keane made his return to the Maccabi Tel Aviv dug out last week for his first game in charge since the outbreak of violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7. Keane’s team beat Ukrainian club Zorya Luhansk 3-1 in their Europa Conference League game which was played in Lublin, a neutral venue in Poland. Maccabi are now second in Group B, with another game against Zorya to be played on Nov. 25. Unless we see a ceasefire in the Middle East, that game is also likely to be played at a neutral venue.



New Portland Timbers head coach Phil Neville says he wants to meet fans of the club after facing criticism for past controversial tweets about women. Neville was sacked by Inter Miami in June with the club bottom of the Eastern Conference after 15 games and was named Portland Timbers manager last week on a contract until 2026. In one tweet from 2011, Neville suggested women would be too ‘‘busy making breakfast/getting kids ready’’ to read his messages. He acknowledged his tweets were ‘‘wrong’’ and said they do not reflect his true values after fan group the Timbers Army urged the club to reconsider before appointing Neville, who managed the England women’s team from 2018 to 2021.


The death occurred last week of Cork soccer legend Miah Dennehy at age 73. Dennehy is best remembered as the first man to score a hat-trick in an FAI Cup final as Cork Hibs beat Waterford 3-0 in the 1972 final at Dalymount Park, preventing the Blues getting the double at the height of their halcyon days. His career in English football included two-and-a-half seasons with Nottingham Forest in the old Second Division, as well as spells with Walsall and Bristol Rovers before Miah returned to the League of Ireland in the 1980s and finished his career with Cork United, Waterford, Limerick, Drogheda and Newcastle West. His last club was St Vincent’s hurling club in Mayfield.

Dennehy won 11 full Irish caps, scoring two goals. He also played in the 

All-Ireland selection that lost 4-3 to Brazil at Lansdowne Road in July 1973.