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'We’ve got a point to prove against them' - Ireland seeking to confirm signs of progress with Luxembourg win

Enda Stevens says revenge is on Ireland’s mind against Luxembourg on Sunday.

Enda Stevens troops off, dejected, at the end of the defeat to Luxembourg.
Enda Stevens troops off, dejected, at the end of the defeat to Luxembourg.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

ENDA STEVENS WAS among the handful of souls present for what is increasingly becoming the very nadir of Stephen Kenny’s Irish reign: the 1-0 loss to Luxembourg at a damp and empty Aviva Stadium.

It has been an upward curve ever since – bar a brief dalliance with disaster in Andorra and a jumpy draw at home to Azerbaijan – and the return game with the Grand Duchy on Sunday offers Ireland the perfect opportunity to measure their own progress. 

“I think we’ve got a point to prove against them”, says Stevens. “We’re playing for pride  and we want to finish as high as we can in this group stage. It’s going to a tough game over there but one we look forward to. 

“It was a low point for us, we didn’t perform well and it was the game that got away from us. We had an unlucky game in Serbia and we wanted to kick on and it just didn’t happen for us, it was just a huge disappointment. We were just flat, the dressing room was flat after the game. We had to pick ourselves up, it was a tough result for us.” 

There were teething issues throughout the dark Covid autumn of 2020 too, with Stevens saying after a 1-0 loss away to Finland in the Nations League that Ireland were taking “unnecessary risks” in possession. Now their passing is slicker and more confident, so is it simply a case of cutting out the needless risk? 

“I think everyone has kind of clicked, you know? When to go long, when to go short. I think in that Finland game we were a bit more naive. We weren’t really set up, we weren’t ready to play short and we conceded a goal from that. Whereas now, we look more set up to play short or go long. We know what’s coming next, that’s the biggest thing.

“It was just one of them one that was going to take time. He [Stephen Kenny] needed time to find out how he wanted to play and get it across to us. And it was up to us to bring it onto the pitch, especially in the big games. We were all disappointed with how it took us so long to get it, and now we’ve adapted very well and I think that can tell on the pitch.”

Stevens returned to the starting line-up against Portugal for the first time in a competitive game since the Luxembourg defeat, having missed June’s friendly games and September’s qualifiers through injury. 


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“It was a massive confidence booster for me because obviously I was playing with a niggle for so long and wasn’t really matching that performance I want to get to. I’m still working towards it but yeah, it was a massive confidence boost to come in.” 

Gavin Bazunu made his debut in that Luxembourg game: Stevens paid tribute to his development ahead of the return game. 

“Gav has came in and set the world on fire, hasn’t he? He is such a confident kid, but he’s humble and he wants to grow and he wants to get better and he’s only going to get better with games and he’s out there playing week in, week out, that’s all he can do. For a person who is such a young age, he’s a real mature man. He’s brilliant to deal with.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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