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Bristol City ready to swap Callum O’Dowda for new Ireland recruit Mark Sykes

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Mark Sykes seen training with the Republic of Ireland in March. Credit: Sportsfile

Mark Sykes seen training with the Republic of Ireland in March. Credit: Sportsfile

Mark Sykes seen training with the Republic of Ireland in March. Credit: Sportsfile

Championship side Bristol City could replace one Ireland international with a future Irish cap as Mark Sykes has been heavily linked with a move to the club.

Callum O’Dowda is out of contract with City after a six-year stay and while the club have an option to extend that for another 12 months, it’s been reported locally that O’Dowda has already been told he can leave on a free transfer. Previous reports had suggested that the club would offer him a one-year extension but on vastly reduced terms, after injury restricted O’Dowda to just 16 starts last season, but his exit, on a free, should be confirmed this week.

O’Dowda has lost his place in the Ireland squad on the back of a dip in his club career and manager Stephen Kenny recently warned the wide player, who has not played for Ireland since November 2020, that he needed to revive his club form before he could be considered for a recall. “He is a good player, Callum, but obviously he just needs to play matches. He hasn’t played for a long time,” Kenny said in March.

O’Dowda joined the Robins from Oxford United and Sykes is now in line to make the same move. The Belfast native, who was called up to the Republic’s squad in March but remains uncapped, is out of contract with Oxford and while the side had tried to keep him, their failure to win promotion from League One means he will leave. Sykes was left out of the Oxford squad for their final game of the season as the club admitted defeat in their bid to retain him.

Sykes is said to have held talks with Bristol City last week, manager Nigel Pearson earmarking the midfielder as one of his main summer targets.

Defender Darragh Lenihan is also in demand. His contract with Blackburn Rovers is up and the club are desperate to tie down their popular captain on a long-term deal, but Blackburn are in a spell of uncertainty following Tony Mowbray’s exit last week. Now 28, Lenihan knows that his next contract could be the most important of his career, and rival Championship clubs are keen to lure the Meath native away.

Middlesbrough and West Brom have been linked with Lenihan and while Blackburn have not yet given up on him staying, the managerial turmoil has not helped their cause.

Elsewhere, Sheffield United have confirmed that former Ireland striker David McGoldrick is one of three players being released. The 34-year-old scored twice in 21 games for the Blades but has been out since February due to injury and plays no part in their promotion play-off challenge.

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