Shelbourne's Sean Gannon, left, in action with Jason McClelland of St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park, Dublin, on Friday night. [Inpho/Tommy Grealy]

It's very competitive at the bottom

In the last few years, several Republic of Ireland stars have been involved in the Premier League relegation battle. And this particularly competitive year in the race to avoid being 18th, 19th or 20th at season’s end is no exception. Burnley gave their survival hopes a boost with a 2-1 home win over Brentford. Dara O’Shea and Josh Cullen both started for the Clarets, who are in 19th spot with 17 points, while Nathan Collins was in defence for Brentford, who are 15th on 26 points. 

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It was a topsy-turvy week for Chiedozie Ogbene and Luton Town. The Irishman got the second of his side’s three first-half goals away to Bournemouth on Wednesday, March 13. But the home side pulled off a remarkable comeback to finish 4-3 winners. Then on Saturday, it was Luton who performed the late heroics and got a valuable point against visitors Nottingham Forest to avoid the three-point gap between the teams in 17th and 18th place being a six-point gap. However on Monday, Forest fell into the relegation zone, 18th place on 21 points, one behind Luton, after they were deducted four points as the result of an enquiry into profit and sustainability. Ogbene’s Irish colleague Andrew Omobamidele was dropped to the Forest bench for the Luton game.

Seamus Coleman’s Everton are hanging on in 16th with 25 points, having suffered their own points deduction --10 eventually reduced to six.  At the bottom are Sheffield United on 14 points, but there’s been no sign of a return of club captain John Egan from a long-term injury. 

With the exception of Everton and Sheffield United, who’ve played just 28 games each, the teams have played 29, and thus have nine games (a maximum 27 points) to secure safety, which is usually at the 37-points mark or thereabouts.


Caoimhin Kelleher, the man lining out for one of the league’s top teams, won’t be involved in the FA Cup Final. The Corkman was one of the heroes in Liverpool’s recent League Cup final win over Chelsea at Wembley, but the Reds were knocked out in the weekend’s classic quarterfinal encounter against Manchester United. 

 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had no complaints at the end of the 4-3 game. He said: ‘‘At 2-1 up we had so many chances where we have to kill the game off. We are nearly there in normal time, nearly there in extra time and we lost the game. That’s all right, I cannot ask the boys for more.’’ 

United will now play Coventry City in the semi-final at Wembley on April 20 or 21. Coventry, who beat Wolves in their quarter-final, are managed by Mark Robins, the player who saved Alex Ferguson’s job when he scored the winner for United in a third round FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest in 1990. It will be Coventry’s first semi-final appearance since 1987 when they won the Cup. 

We had an all-Manchester final last year and I think it could happen again this year. On Saturday Manchester City beat Newcastle United 2-0 to become the first club to qualify for FA Cup semi-finals six years in a row. City will meet Chelsea in the semi-final at Wembley on April 20 or 21. The Blues scored twice in stoppage time on Sunday to overcome Leicester City at Stamford Bridge.


In the Championship Leeds United took full advantage of Leicester City’s involvement in the FA Cup when they beat Millwall 2-0 to go top for the first time this season. Ipswich Town beat Sheffield Wednesday 6-0 to hold on to third place. 



In recent years the number of Irish managers at English League clubs has been in declined, with nobody replacing Chris Hughton and Brendan Rodgers in the top flight. However, the numbers are growing again and we now have three from Northern Ireland managing below the EPL: Grant McCann (Doncaster Rovers), Kieran McKenna (Ipswich Town) and Martin Paterson (Burton Albion). For a few months Dubliner Graham Coughlan was flying the flag for the Republic of Ireland on his own at Newport County. But now we have another Dubliner, Gavin Gunning at Swindon Town. And at 33 he is the youngest boss of the 92 league clubs in the four professional tiers.



Jurgen Klopp says he hasn’t changed his mind about leaving Liverpool at the end of the season despite the return of his friend Michael Edwards to the club. Klopp says Edwards’ return to Liverpool is “top news,” but does not affect his own decision to leave at the end of the season. Edwards, who is 44,  was appointed Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group’s chief executive of football last week and will begin work on June 1. He previously spent 11 years at Liverpool, including six years as sporting director, before leaving the club in the summer of 2022. Klopp said: ‘‘It is the best club in the world and I am still leaving. I just want this club to do as well as possible with the best people in charge and Michael is a top choice.’’ 

In the six years with Edwards as sporting director and Klopp as manager, Liverpool won the Champions League and Club World Cup, as well as the EPL in 2019-20, the club's first league title for 30 years. Although Edwards has recently spoken to Klopp, there was no attempt to persuade the German to stay on at Anfield. ‘‘We had that conversation, but that is not a subject to talk about. Can you imagine I changed my mind? Of course not,’’ added Klopp. Edwards will be tasked with bringing in a new sporting director. Richard Hughes, who will leave his role as Bournemouth technical director at the end of the season, is apparently under consideration.



In the EPL Luton Town are close to the relegation, but some consolation for Hatters fans is that their manager Rob Edward was last week voted Number One in the Hunky Managers table as decided by AI. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was ranked number two, with Gary O’Neil of Wolves in third place and Pep Guardiola coming in fourth. Sheffield United are bottom of the EPL table and that’s where there manager Chris Wilder also finished.


Manchester City have been paired with Real Madrid in the knock stage of the Champions League for the third season in-a-row. Arsenal have been drawn against Bayern Munich, who have former Spurs striker Harry Kane in their team. The first legs will be play  on April 9/10, with the second legs on April 16/17. Quarter-finals: Arsenal v Bayern Munich; Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund; Paris St-Germain v Barcelona; Real Madrid v Manchester City. If City and Arsenal both win their ties, they will meet in the semi-final and the final is at Wembley on June 1. 

Meanwhile in the Europa League Liverpool will play Atalanta in the quarter-finals with West Ham set to face Bayer Leverkusen. Liverpool, favorites to make the final in Dublin on May 22 (which would be Jurgen Klopp’s last game for the club), will play Benfica or Marseille in the semi-finals. The first legs take place on April 11 with the second legs on April 18. 


Former Irish international Anthony Stokes was jailed for five months in Scotland last week after he breached court orders with “chilling” messages to his former girlfriend, Eilidh. The 35-year-old former Arsenal and Celtic striker has also been banned from contacting Eilidh for five years and her parents for a year. Stokes handed himself into Motherwell police station last month after failing to appear in court for a third time to be sentenced, flying from Dublin to do so. He appeared from custody in handcuffs after causing repeated delays to the case.


Shelbourne, whose last League title win was in 2006, have made a great start  in the League of Ireland Premier Division. On Friday night, the Reds beat St Patrick’s Athletic 2-1 at Inchicore to go five points clear of Derry City at the top of the table. Shamrock Rovers got their first win of the season, a Johnny Kenny goal giving them all three points away to Galway. Bohemians sacked their manager Declan Devine last week after their home defeat to Shels. On  Friday night first team coaches Derek Pender and Trevor Crolly took charge and the Gypsies beat Derry City 2-1 at Dalymount. Devine, who hails from Derry was named interim manager of Glentoran at the weekend.