Kenny says Jeff Hendrick's absence at Newcastle 'based on his form from last season'

The midfielder hasn’t played since impressing for Ireland against Qatar last month.

Jeff Hendrick, in action for Newcastle.
Jeff Hendrick, in action for Newcastle.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

JEFF HENDRICK IS emblematic of the odd and liminal space in which many of Ireland’s internationals currently find themselves: regulars for their country; hardly even bit-part players for their clubs. 

Stephen Kenny played seven Premier League players across the recent games with Azerbaijan and Qatar, with only Shane Duffy a regular at his club.

Caoimhin Kelleher is firmly second-choice at Liverpool – though was recently called the best goalkeeper of his age in Europe by Jurgen Klopp – while Nathan Collins and Andrew Omobamidele are not yet first-choice options at Burnley and Norwich. 

Adam Idah has played all of 23 minutes since his last appearance for Ireland, while Matt Doherty and Hendrick haven’t played at all.

Doherty’s absence is partly injury-enforced: he is not first-choice at Spurs but would have appeared in the Europa Conference League but for injury. He is fit again now, but his involvement against Vitesse on Thursday is complicated by Spurs’ managerial upheaval. 

Hendrick, meanwhile, is fit but out of favour at Newcastle United. He had fallen from Steve Bruce’s first-choice team last season, and interim boss Graeme Jones couldn’t even find a place for him in the matchday squad against Chelsea last Saturday. 

This despite his fine performances for Ireland in Baku and particularly in Dublin against Qatar, which Stephen Kenny called Hendrick’s best performance in an Irish shirt. 

“He has re-discovered his form so I do feel, probably, him not playing for Newcastle is based on his form from last season carrying over, not getting an opportunity”, said Kenny of Hendrick. 

“He has turned a corner, rejuvenated himself and played well for Ireland but he has not really got the opportunity at Newcastle this year. He did lose his form when he went there initially, and so forth. That was the case but he addressed that and got himself right and for us, he is playing very, very well.

“It is just one of those things, the new manager went with a midfield two in their system which is 5-4-1 or a  5-2-3 and he found himself left out, because he has performed really well for Ireland and probably in the last number of games, he has been very good.” 

PeterMcVerryTrust6_big Stephen Kenny launches the Peter McVerry Trust's Christmas Appeal.

Aaron Connolly didn’t even make it off the bench for Ireland in October, a sign he has been eclipsed in the Irish pecking order by Chiedozie Ogbene. Connolly played Brighton’s League Cup tie last midweek – remarkably, his first 90 minutes at first-team club level in two years – and has played a total of 56 minutes in the Premier League this season. 

Kenny revealed Connolly almost left Brighton on loan at the start of this season. 

“He’s a talented young player who hasn’t played that much, it’s hard at Premier League level to get football. He nearly got a potential loan move at the start of the season, it didn’t materialise. Brighton wanted to hold onto him so hopefully he gets to play more football now but it’s hard, Brighton are going well, just playing with one striker in the system they have and at the weekend [against Liverpool] they went without a striker really. Maupay didn’t play.

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“They played Trossard who is a traditional number ten or wide player as their highest attacking player. So it’s not easy for young players in the Premier League trying to get an opportunity, it’s not easy. It’s tough to get gametime and that can affect your sharpness and so forth. There’s no doubt he’s a very talented player and will come good over time.” 

Robbie Brady, meanwhile, has found a club: he signed for Bournemouth last month, having been unattached since leaving Burnley at the end of last season. Kenny says he won’t be ready for next week’s double-header of World Cup qualifiers with Portugal and Luxembourg – the squad is named on Thursday – but will be part of Ireland’s future. 

“There’s no reason Robbie can’t get regular football and be a big part of our future, as he is very talented. Okay, he’s gone from a situation where he was probably number one on the team-sheet and maybe Ireland’s best player to a situation where he was out of contract and clubless.  

“That can appear dramatic on the face of it, but he would have been a good signing for any club and will be a good signing for Bournemouth. So he’s just getting up to speed now, and I’m sure he will be a very good addition to them.” 

Kenny received several boosts on the injury front ahead of his squad announcement on Thursday, with Jamie McGrath, Caoimhin Kelleher, Jason Knight, Troy Parrott and Matt Doherty all set to be available. 

Stephen Kenny was speaking to promote the launch of the Fr Peter McVerry Trust’s Christmas Appeal. For more information and to make a donation, visit the website. 

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Gavin Cooney

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