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Dublin: 9°C Monday 10 May 2021

Kenny will be happy with best possible Nations League draw, says McCarthy

‘That draw was as good as we could have got,’ said the current boss.

Current Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy.
Current Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN KENNY WILL be at the helm by the time the UEFA Nations League kicks off in September but Mick McCarthy says his successor should be very satisfied to be grouped with Wales, Finland and Bulgaria.

Ryan Giggs’ Wales side are placed 23rd in the Fifa rankings, 11 places above Ireland. Finland sit 58th and Bulgaria 59th.

Of more concern to the current boss, however, is the loss of his captain, Seamus Coleman, who is set to miss four to six weeks of action with a thigh injury — a recovery period which will rule him out of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Slovakia in Bratislava.

Speaking about the Nations League draw in Amsterdam, McCarthy emphasised some of the prospective opposition that Ireland managed to miss in the relative luxury of being a Pot 2 nation.

Wales, though, who beat Ireland home and away in the inaugural Nations League, will face the Boys in Green for the third time in the last four campaigns.

This edition of the tournament offers a backdoor to the 2022 World Cup. The top side in each group of the standard World Cup qualifying campaign will qualify automatically for Qatar.

The runner-up in each group will go into the 12-team play-offs, with the remaining two spots fulfilled by the two highest-ranked sides across the Nations League who do not finish in the top two of their World Cup qualifying group.

The play-offs will consist of three groups of four, wherein teams will have to navigate a semi-final and final to earn their place in Qatar.

Ireland will have to top their Nations League group in order to be in contention for this fallback route.

“That draw was as good as we could have got,” asserted McCarthy.

“If Stephen Kenny was watching back home, he will be very happy.

“When I see the Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary group, we could have been in there.

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“Wales are the stand-out side and they had a great 2016 European Championships and they’re already looking forward to this summer’s finals.

“We’ve played Bulgaria and beaten them recently and that experience will be good for any of my players if they come up against them in the Nations League. I don’t know a lot about Finland but I’m sure the players will look forward to playing them in the group.

“The Nations League is a good tournament. I enjoyed the games the first time around and the competitive nature of them – it’s so much better than friendlies.”

The fixtures for the Nations League – which does offer a slim backdoor route into the 2022 World Cup – are due to be published by Uefa on Tuesday evening.

About the author:

John Fallon

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