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'I know how hard it is for League of Ireland players to be capped - it's great to see'

Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny has paid tribute to Graham Burke and Shane Supple following their recent call-ups to the national team.

Graham Burke pictured playing for Ireland against Celtic on Sunday.
Graham Burke pictured playing for Ireland against Celtic on Sunday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated May 22nd 2018, 8:00 AM

STEPHEN KENNY SAYS all players in the League of Ireland should take encouragement following confirmation yesterday that both Bohemians’ Shane Supple and Shamrock Rovers star Graham Burke would be included in the Ireland squad for upcoming friendlies against France (28 May) and the US (2 June).

And while relatively few domestic players have been called up to the national squad in recent times, Kenny himself is no stranger to this scenario.

The Dundalk coach was Glen Crowe’s boss at Bohemians in 2002 when the player was capped in a friendly against Greece during one of Don Givens’ brief spells as Ireland caretaker boss in between the Mick McCarthy and Brian Kerr eras, with the Dublin-born striker becoming the first domestic-based player to be capped for Ireland since Shamrock Rovers legend Pat Byrne made the last of his six appearances against Czechoslovakia during the early days of Jack Charlton’s reign in 1986.

“I’m delighted for the players — they’re excellent players,” Kenny said, when asked about Monday’s news. “Shane is a brilliant goalkeeper and Graham’s scored some brilliant goals, he’s been a breath of fresh air, so it’s great to see it.

“I managed Glen Crowe [in the League of Ireland] when he played against Greece. I know how hard it is for [League of Ireland] players to be capped — it’s great to see all the players in recent years. Obviously, we had Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle in the squad while they were [at Dundalk], we’ve had Gary Rogers in and around the squad, so it’s good encouragement for the players here and it has to be seen as a positive step.”

Stephen Kenny Stephen Kenny pictured at Oriel Park yesterday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Kenny was speaking after seeing his side secure a hard-fought 2-0 victory over third-place Waterford — their fourth league win on the bounce since being defeated by the Blues at the RSC earlier this month.

“We played well first half,” Kenny said. “We had a lot of chances, with a lot of good play. Waterford defended very deep and in numbers. I lost track of the corner count in the first half. They defended them well. We didn’t quite capitalise on the chances we had with corner kicks.

“Lawrence Vigoureux in goal made some brilliant saves — an unbelievable save from Michael Duffy particularly and he looked very accomplished to be fair.

“It was a great [opening] goal. Chris Shields… It was brilliant run down the left side — he intercepted the ball, drove with it. The last three games he’s really played on top of his game.

“Michael [Duffy] crossed it and it’s just a real top-class finish from Robbie Benson, in a big game, to get a goal of that quality [is impressive].”

Despite Dundalk having dominated for large periods of the game and been a little wasteful with their finishing, Kenny admits he was a relieved man in the end. Waterford rallied late on — in the 76th minute, Rory Feely went down in the box under a challenge from Gary Rogers, but the referee ignored Waterford’s claims for a penalty. And in the dying moments of the match, Sander Puri’s long-distance effort came back off the post, before Feely was inches away from converting Ismahil Akinade’s cross on the rebound of the initial attempt.

“Particularly the shot that hit the post [was nerve-racking]. Gary got a touch on it I believe, or he tells me he did, and the subsequent cross from that — we made an error and they nearly scored from the cross after we hit the post. We could have made it easier for ourselves.

But Waterford played well in the second half, they deserve credit, they did well. They caused us problems, we got into a different mode that’s not like us, we defended a bit deeper and didn’t control the game in the way that you’d want to control a game in the second half.

“But I suppose that’s credit to Waterford, and we had some very good chances on the counter-attack. In the end, we were a little bit wasteful but the last one counted [Marco Tagbajumi's stoppage-time goal].

“The players did look tired [in the last few minutes], but to be fair to Waterford, they’ve had a lot of games [too], so we can’t use that as an excuse.

“But it was a narrow victory, and we were pleased to come out the right side of it.”

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