THE Premier League season is rapidly coming to an end, but there was still time for several Cork players to make their mark for their clubs.
It was great to see Kevin Long back on the big stage with Burnley last weekend. And there is no bigger stage than facing the new champions Liverpool at Anfield.
Long had not started a Premier League game since December 2018 and has had to content himself with cup games for the Clarets. But he returned to the Premier ranks as a replacement for injured skipper Ben Mee against Sheffield United the previous week.
And the 29-year-old former Cork City defender showed no sign of rustiness when he pulled off one of the best defensive tackles of the season when he tracked golden-boot candidate Mo Salah back to clear the ball over the bar from the toe of the Egyptian sharpshooter, just as he was about to pull the trigger on a certain goal for the champions.
It proved a crucial intervention as Burnley were under immense pressure at the time and one feels if they conceded then it may have seen the floodgates open. But with Long's diligence and inspired keeping by Burnley keeper Nick Pope they held on until Jay Rodriguez amazingly equalised, as the Clarets became the only side in the league to take points off Liverpool at home this season.
Not as good news as Long, but Douglas' Adam Idah has been showing impressive form off the bench for Norwich City lately. Nevertheless, the Canaries were relegated at the weekend after a poor result to West Ham.
In contrast, however, Idah has played well, coming close to salvaging a point at Watford, Tuesday week ago, with a close-range effort and had a stoppage-time header that came off the post in the Brighton defeat.
Since his FA Cup hat-trick against Preston, Norwich City supporters have called for Idah to be entrusted with a more prominent role in the club’s battle against relegation. But manager Daniel Farke has restricted the former College Corinthians' teen to substitute appearances, reluctant to endanger the progress of the 19-year-old's career by overusing him.
The Championship awaits for now, but one suspects that Idah will not be a stranger to the Premier League either through a Norwich return or via another club.
Without question, the top Cork performer since the return to action, in England, has been Sheffield United's John Egan. The Bishopstown man was already making a remarkable start to his Premier League career at centre-back for The Blades this season, but he had not yet scored in the top-flight, which for those that have followed Egan's career would know is a significant part of his game, despite his position on the park.
That situation was rectified in no uncertain manner when he connected on the half volley from a flicked pass to hammer home a rocket for a late equaliser against Burnley on July 5.
The goal had the English pundits chortling about centre-back goals, such was its unusual quality. But three days later, Egan was at it again. This time striking late for a winner against the mighty Wolves.
In a last-minute set-piece, the young Egan leapt high in the crowded box to connect a header on the ball to claim the goal and the win. His leap was so impressive it was reminiscent of the fielding of his legendary father in the green and gold of Kerry back in the day.
This last weekend saw Bandon's Conor Hourihane lead the Aston Villa's attack against a sticky Crystal Palace side as the Birmingham team look to engineer a way out of relegation.
Hourihane played a role in both of Villa's goals and provided the assist to Trézéguet's winner on the hour mark.
The former Sunderland player has had a frustrating on-off run of games with Villa this season but has shown boss Dean Smith his quality since the return from the lockdown. Hourihane is an excellent, if underrated, talent and one hopes the west Cork star can help steer Villa out of troubled relegation waters and secure a new deal with the Villains for another Premer League season.