Plenty of Irish were in action in the weekend games, and here are three standout players.
Josh Cullen (Burnley)
The Ireland midfielder shone for Burnley in their 3-0 win over Blackburn on Sunday.
Cullen has an 89pc pass completion rate, created three key chances and won all of his ground duels as Burnley remained top of the Championship. The 26-year-old has emerged as a real leader for the Clarets this term and is part of a leadership group manager Vincent Kompany has created within the dressing room to boost morale and communication.
An Ashley Barnes brace and Anass Zaroury strike secured three points at Turf Moor, their biggest East Lancashire derby win in over 57 years. Cullen reports into the Ireland camp on Monday as Stephen Kenny’s side host Norway on Thursday before a trip to Malta on Sunday.
Michael Duffy (Derry City)
The Derry City winger was superb in Sunday’s FAI cup final win over Shelbourne, contributing two fine assists for Cameron McJannet's brace. A product of the club’s academy, Duffy stormed down the left wing on 35 minutes and pulled it back as McJannet fired home before his pinpoint corner allowed the left back to convert from close range again. The 28-year-old was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself as his 30-yard strike smacked the crossbar in the second half.
Duffy is capped for Ireland at U-18 level and declared his intention to play for the Boys in Green in 2018, but delays with paperwork prevented him from being called up under Martin O’Neill and Stephen Kenny.
His international switch was finally granted in February 2021, but the Derry native hasn't been called up since, although Kenny was in attendance at Lansdowne Road on Sunday and Duffy’s display would certainly have caught the eye.
“The cups at Dundalk were unbelievable, and I will never forget them, but this is extra special. It's why I came back to Derry,” Duffy said after picking up his third FAI Cup medal.
Tom Lonergan (UCD)
Lonergan’s first-half header proved crucial as UCD retained their Premier Division status at Waterford’s expense. The Ireland U-19 striker has been in inspired form of late, stepping up for the Students after they lost Liam Kerrigan to Italy and Colm Whelan to injury.
Lonergan’s play-off winner was his seventh goal of the campaign after returning from an ankle fracture earlier in the season. His form was key in UCD staying up, with the 18-year-old hitting match-winning braces against Dundalk and Finn Harps, as the Students earned consecutive top-flight seasons for the first time since 2014.
“He has a high ceiling in terms of where he’s going,” said UCD boss Andy Myler of Lonergan after the play-off win.
“He was injured at the start of the season but came back exactly at the right time, in terms of us having lost a couple of forward players. He’s made a massive difference to us.”