Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has called up three League of Ireland players for a four-day training camp in Bristol this week, ahead of the Euro qualifiers against Greece and Gibraltar next month. They are Shamrock Rovers winger Neil Farrugia, and two goalkeepers, Bohemians’ James Talbot and Brian Maher of Derry City.
Also included in the 22-man squad are a group of England-based players stepping up from the under-21s to get an opportunity to catch the manager’s eye at the Bristol City’s High Performance Centre: Aintree-born Everton striker Tom Cannon, who enjoyed a loan spell at Preston North End in the second half of the season, Cork-born Seán McLoughlin (Hull City) and Londoner Danny McNamara (Millwall).
Jeff Hendrick and Alan Browne are both out as they recover from injury, but they are expected to be available for the games next month. Rotherham striker Chiedozie Ogbene will report to the camp to continue his assessment and rehabilitation from a hamstring injury, but captain Seamus Coleman, Andrew Omobamidele and Callum Robinson are all definitely out of the June games.
All of our Premier League players remain in action for their clubs while Mikey Johnston at Portuguese club Vitoria de Guimaraes, Matt Doherty at Atletico Madrid and Jamie McGrath at Dundee United also continue with their domestic seasons.
Kenny said: ‘‘The six-week break between the end of the Championship and our qualifier against Greece in Athens on June 16 is something we have to navigate and make sure our preparations are planned well. This training camp in Bristol is essential before we travel to Turkey on June 5 for nine days ahead of our visit to Athens and we are looking forward to a good four days training and some sharp sessions.’’
CITY ON FIRE, FOREST SAFE
When Arsenal lost 3-0 at home to Brighton on May 14, it left Manchester City needing just one win out of three games to retain the Premier League title. Indeed two draws would’ve been sufficient, even if Arsenal won all of their games. But then the Gunners misfired again on last Saturday, losing 1-0 away to relegation-battlers Nottingham Forest and City were declared champions for the third season running without kicking a ball.
For Sunday’s home game against Chelsea, manager Pep Guardiola made nine changes from the side that beat Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League in midweek. Erling Haaland was rested but Julian Alvarez provided the cutting edge in his absence with a clinical finish to put City ahead after 12 minutes, as their jubilant fans basked in warm sunshine waiting for the trophy presentations and celebrations, of what is Pep’s 11th title in 14 seasons as a manager in Spain and England.
So the treble is certainly on for City as they will be hot favorites to beat United in the FA Cup final on June 3. And after their impressive win over Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final in midweek, they will now meet Inter Milan in the final in Istanbul on June 10. Italian clubs have qualified for all three European finals. Roma will meet Sevilla in the Europa League final in Budapest on May 31 and Fiorentina take on West Ham in the Conference League final in Prague on June 7.
Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win over Arsenal at the City Ground secured their EPL status for next year. With several clubs in the bottom half of the League changing managers, Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis stood by his manager Steve Cooper and on Saturday evening the Greek media mogul came on the to pitch to wave to supporters and hug Cooper.
Newcastle United put a Champions League place within sight on Thursday with a 4-1 home win over Brighton, and clinched it officially with a home draw against Everton on Monday. For a club that were struggling every season just to stay in the EPL, securing a Champions League place shows the transformation of the Geordies in their first full season under their new Saudi owners. And they didn’t break the Saudi bank by signing big names, but we know that there is plenty of money available and Newcastle could be the club to challenge the dominance of Manchester City at some date in the future. Manchester United seem certain to be England’s 4th club in the Champions League next season. They won 1-0 away to Bournemouth on Saturday and are three points ahead of Liverpool with a game less played, but with a much inferior goal difference than the Pool.
Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson scored twice in the first half as Brighton beat the already-relegated Southampton to secure European football for the first time in their history. The 18-year-old from County Meath opened the scoring with a powerful low shot past Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before doubling the Seagulls’ advantage with a first-time finish from inside the area.
A superb double from Bryan Mbeumo helped Brentford come from behind to win and spoil Tottenham's final home game of a miserable season. The Cameroon international struck two fine efforts early in the second half, before team-mate Yoane Wissa capped things off, as Brentford overturned Tottenham’s first-half lead which had come via captain Harry Kane. Just days after strike partner Ivan Toney was banned for eight months for breaking FA betting rules, Mbeumo showed Brentford fans they can count on him to deliver the goals.
Everton’s fight to avoid the drop into the Championship will go down to the final day of the season despite Yerry Mina snatching a dramatic equalizer deep into stoppage time at Wolves and that draw in the Northeast. The Toffees looked on course for a damaging defeat until Mina pounced in a goalmouth scramble in the final seconds of nine minutes of additional time to give Everton what might prove to be a priceless point. Manager Sean Dyche said all Evertonians were waiting for results to discover the full extent of their task when Bournemouth visit Goodison Park on Sunday next. Now they know that they must win; if they draw then Leicester mustn’t win in their home clash against West Ham.
Leeds United’s EPL status is hanging by a thread as West Ham came from behind to win 3-1 at London Stadium on Sunday. For the second week running Leeds were unable to hold on to a first-half lead and this time they did not even pick up a point following late goals from Jarrod Bowen and Manuel Lanzini. An injury to striker Patrick Bamford, which must make him a doubt for Leeds’ final game against Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road next weekend, was further disappointment for temporary manager Sam Allardyce. In the final round of games next Sunday Leeds must beat visiting Spurs and hope Everton lose and Leicester be held to a draw. In essence — another miracle like the once that save
The draw was made last week for the new Avenir Sports Women’s All-Island Cup. Sixteen teams will take part in the inaugural staging of the competition. League of Ireland Premier Division champions Shelbourne were paired with Athlone Town, Galway United and Linfield, while Northern Ireland champions Cliftonville are grouped with Bohemians, Derry City and Sligo Rovers. In the other groups, Glentoran will play Peamount United, Shamrock Rovers and Wexford Youths and the fourth group consists of Cork City, Crusaders, DLR Waves and Treaty United. In order to aid the Republic of Ireland’s Women’s team preparations for World Cup in July, the Women’s Premier Division season was structured to allow for a period where no League games would take place. This new competition will now be played during that scheduled break.
FOR LONG, ENOUGH
IS ENOUGH, MAYBE
Shane Long has admitted that he is contemplating bringing the curtain down on his career. The former Republic of Ireland international was part of the Reading squad which was relegated from the English Championship this season and his contract is due to expire next month.
Long said: ‘‘I’m going to speak to my family but in my head, I think enough is enough, I will be 37 next January. I will spend time with my family over the summer and weigh up the pros and cons after that. I feel good, my body does feel good, but I suppose the older you get the more it’s about recovery and getting your body going again.’’
Long won 88 Irish caps and scored 17 goals for the Boys in Green, including his famous winner against Germany at the Aviva in October 2015, which contributed to our qualification for Euro 2016.