John Egan, left, training before the 3-2 win over Latvia. INPHO/RYAN BYRNE

City, United on course for final

Two Irishmen will be aiming to prevent a Manchester City vs. Manchester United FA Cup Final on June 3. 

Cork’s John Egan was part of the Sheffield United quarterfinal 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, but the Blades will be very much the underdogs when they take on City in the semifinal on April 22. 

The Brighton vs. United game the same day will be much harder to call. The Seagulls, doing well in the Premier League, hammered Grimsby Town 5-0 in the Cup quarters, with the second and third goals coming from the brilliant boot of Meath’s Evan Ferguson. 

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City under Pep Guardiola have gotten to the semifinal in almost every year of his tenure, but only made the final once, which they won. Sheffield United, on the other hand, haven’t been in the final since 1936, and haven’t won the Cup since 1925.

And the scorer of the Blades’ winner against Blackburn, Tommy Doyle, is actually a City player on loan and so can’t be named in the semi line-up. Both Doyle’s grandfathers, Mike Doyle and Glyn Perdoe, played when City won the cup in 1969. 

Fulham’s hopes of a first FA Cup semi-final for 21 years self-destructed during a crazy few minutes at Old Trafford when they had two players and manager Marco Silva sent off as United came from behind to win in dramatic circumstances. Fulham were leading 1-0 thanks to Mitrovic’s 50th-minute goal and dreaming of a Wembley date with Brighton only to implode amid shocking scenes at Old Trafford with Serbian international Mitrovic clearly seen pushing referee Chris Kavanagh. The ref had changed his mind on an awarded corner to a penalty after the VAR screen showed the veteran Brazilian star Willian handle the ball on the line. Willian was red-carded after his manager, which then sent Mitrovic into a fury. Pretty soon, an uninspiring United were 3-1 up.


The Republic of Ireland beat Latvia 3-2 in a friendly game at the Aviva Stadium Wednesday evening ahead of the their opening European Championships qualifier against France on Monday. County Meath's Evan Ferguson got on the scoresheet in his first international start. Troy Parrott has opened the scoring, but Latvia pulled back two goals to make it 2-2 before the break. A double substitution had an immediate impact with an attack by Mikey Johnston led to the winning goal by Chiedozie Ogbene,

When announcing his squad on Thursday of last week manager Stephen Kenny was bullish about his attacking options. He said:  ‘‘Evan has had a rapid rise, from briefly playing with Bohemians as a 14-year-old to playing regularly now in the EPL [with Brighton]. So, even from our last  international window, he had made a rapid rise. The characteristics of our forward players are completely different to what they were two years ago. All of a sudden, we have got players like Chiedozie Ogbene, Michael Obafemi, Adam Idah, Evan Ferguson, Troy Parrott, players who are direct, quick and can play different ways, and obviously Will Keane and Mikey Johnston, who is a dribbler, so now we now have got different qualities in our attack.’’ However, on Sunday Norwich manager David Wagner confirmed that Idah has a foot injury and is going to be out for a few weeks. 


It was a bad St Patrick’s Day for Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira as he was sacked after 20 months in charge of the London club. Palace lost 1-0 to Brighton in midweek and it has left them three points above the relegation zone. On Sunday Palace’s under 21 coach Dubliner Paddy McCarthy was in charge for the trip to North London to play Arsenal. The Eagles got their first goal since Feb. 18, but it was the same old story, still no win in 2023 as they lost 4-1.With City involved in FA Cup action, Arsenal are now 8 points clear at the top of the table, but with a game more played.

On Monday, the 75-year-old Roy Hodgson returned to Palace to see the season out as interim manager. He declared his No. 1 aim — Palace have to start winning.


Erling Haaland, who got a hat-trick in Manchester City’ 6-0 win over Burnley in the FA Cup on Saturday, scored five goals as City beat RB Leipzig 7-0 in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier in midweek. Haaland has now taken his goal tally for season to a staggering 42 goals from 37 appearances. City and Chelsea got tough Champions League quarter-final ties and they will meet in the last four if both advance. Chelsea face holders and 14-time winners Real Madrid, with the first leg taking place in Spain. City were paired with Bayern Munich with the first leg at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. If both Chelsea and City progress, they will meet in the semi-final, a repeat of the 2021 final which Chelsea won 1-0. In the other quarter-finals, Inter will face Benfica, while it's an all-Italian clash when Napoli face AC Milan. In the Europa League Manchester United have been drawn against six-time winners Sevilla in the quarter-finals. United beat another Spanish club Real Betis in the Round of 16 last week.


With Burnley and Sheffield United both involved in FA Cup action there was no change to Burnley’s 13-point lead over The Blades at the top of Championship. But third place Middlesbrough are now only three points behind Sheffield after a 4-0 home win over Preston North End. Meanwhile at the bottom Mick McCarthy’s Blackpool, who beat Queens Park Rangers 6-1 in midweek, were beaten 4-0 at home by Coventry on Saturday. Blackpool are just one point ahead of bottom club Wigan, for whom James McClean scored in their 1-1 draw away to Watford.


The Republic of Ireland under 17 team last week qualified for the European Under 17 championship finals will be played in Hungary from May 17 to June 2. The young boys in green qualified after a 3-2 win over hosts Cyprus in the Elite Round last week.

Meanwhile Irish under 19 manager Tom Mohan has included 17 year-old Cliftonville striker Seán Moore in his squad for their week’s Euro under 19 qualifying tournament which will be played in Ferrycarrig Park, Wexford. The Republic Ireland has a good chance of reaching the July finals in Malta, having been drawn against Slovakia, Estonia and Greece. After being handed his senior debut at 16 last season, Moore has made 29 appearances this season for Cliftonville, who rebuffed six-figure offers from UK clubs for their star before the January transfer deadline. 


Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe paid a high profile visit to Old Trafford on Friday to attend a presentation held by senior Manchester United management staff. INEOS founder Ratcliffe and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani have made offers to buy United to American merchant bankers Raine, which was brought in to assist the club in assessing bids. The club’s owners, the Glazer family, announced last November they were conducting a strategic review, with the sale of United one option being considered. Ratcliffe, who is 70, was born in Failsworth in Greater Manchester,  now owns French club Nice. He was joined at Old Trafford by INEOS co-owners Andy Currie and John Reece.


FIFA confirmed last week at its Congress in Kigali that the 2026 World Cup will have 104 games instead of the traditional 64 due to the expanded format with 48 teams taking part. The 2026 finals, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, will be the first of the quadrennial tournament in which 48 teams are taking part. The final will be played on July 19. The original plan for the 2026 edition had a total of 80 games, but the decision to increase the number of games to 104 was approved by FIFA’s council last week. Traditionally the top two teams from each group advance to the last 16 but the 2026 edition will also have the eight best third-placed teams moving into the knockout round of 32. The 32-team World Cup in Qatar last year had a total of 64 games completed in 29 days. The last time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) hosted a World Cup, there were only 24 teams.

EPL Results:

Arsenal 4, Crystal Palace 1; Aston Villa 3, Brentford 0; Chelsea 2, Everton 2; Notts Forest 1, Newcastle Utd 2; Southampton 3, Tottenham 3; Wolves 2, Leeds Utd 4.

FA Cup Quarter-finals:

Brighton 5, Grimsby Town 0; Manchester City 6, Burnley 0; Manchester Utd 3, Fulham 1; Sheffield Utd 3, Blackburn Rovers 2.


It’s has been a very competitive start to the League of Ireland premier division and after six series of games Shamrock Rovers, who are bidding for four in-a-row, have yet to register a win. On Friday evening The Hoops were held to a 2-2 draw in Tallaght by St Patrick’s Athletic, who are also struggling. Meanwhile Rovers’ arch Dublin rivals Bohemians have won five of their six games and they beat Friday UCD 2-1 at Dalymount on Friday to go three points clear of Derry City at the top of the table. Derry needed a late equaliser from Ciaran Coll to get a draw at home to Sligo Rovers and it looks like the Astro surface at the Brandywell is not doing the Candystripes any favors for their home games.


The Irish love Cheltenham. We sent over 230 horses to the National Hunt Festival last week and management at the famous English track certainly appreciate the huge Irish input. They named the Mares’ Hurdle on Thursday after Jack de Bromhead, the 13 year-old son of trainer Henry de Bromhead, who was killed in a riding accident in County Kerry last September. Henry’s horse Magical Zoe was second in the race named after his son, but the Waterford trainer’s big day was on Tuesday when Rachael Blackmore rode Honeysuckle to victory in the Mares’ Hurdle. Blackmore was top jockey in 2022, but this year that honour went to Cork-born Paul Townend, who rode the Willie Mullins-trained favorite Galopin Des Champs to win the Gold Cup on Friday. It was Mullins’ third time to win the big race at the meeting and it brings his career total at Cheltenham to 94. Legendary Irish jockey Tony McCoy said it was ‘‘as brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horse race.’’ Once again Ireland beat England 18-10 to win the Prestbury Cup, which was inaugurated in 2014.