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Kenny: Slovakia performance proves quality of Irish players

The Irish boss heralded his players for showing ‘tremendous qualities as Irishmen.’

Stephen Kenny.
Stephen Kenny.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

IRELAND BOSS STEPHEN Kenny said his side deserved to win their ultimately heartbreaking Euro 2020 playoff defeat to Slovakia, which they lost 4-2 on penalties.

Matt Doherty and Alan Browne missed their spot kicks in the shootout, after 120 goalless minutes in which Ireland came closest to scoring. Alan Browne hit the post while Conor Hourihane saw a shot blocked off the line from close range, before Ireland eventually succumbed in their first shootout since losing to Spain at the 2002 World Cup. 

“There are elements of that”, Kenny told Sky Sports when asked if the performance showed positive signs for the future. “But that is not important tonight. What is important is that this group of players gave everything for their country, they deserved to win the game overall. To come away to Slovakia and deserve to win shows great fortitude, and shows that we have good players.

“The stakes are high the prize is huge and we can’t that back. We can’t get that back. That’s difficult to accept, but we have to accept it. That’s the reality. 

“The players showed tremendous qualities as Irishmen, and showed a great team ethic. As the game progressed I felt we were in the ascendancy, and it looked like we really wanted to win it. We had some really good chances but we just couldn’t score the goal we needed. 

“It’s an unfortunate and harsh way to lose, but that’s the way it goes.

“I don’t know if you can say [losing on penalties is] bad luck, but the players didn’t deserve to lose the game. They gave everything of themselves. Their workrate was phenomenal: their determination to try and win and get to the final was very evident. 

“It is a cruel way to lose, on penalty kicks. I thought we defended well all night and we created some good chances.Some of the forward play…David McGoldrick was absolutely outstanding.

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“I’m disappointed for the players, they deserved better and I can’t ask any more of them.” 

Kenny also explained that Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were forced to withdraw from the matchday squad that morning as they were deemed to be close contact of a Covid-positive member of the FAI backroom staff. 

The issue arose as the players were sitting 1.7 metres and 1.9 metres respectively from the member of staff on the flight to Bratislava. Under the HSE guidelines, sitting less than two metres from more than two hours from a Covid-positive person renders one as a close contact. The players were forced to self-isolate and miss the game, in spite of an appeal to the HSE. 

Captain Shane Duffy, meanwhile, could only linger on the disappointment in his post-game interview. 

“I’m disappointed. It’s hard right at the minute to put it into words. It’s never nice to lose on penalties, so it’s a tough one to take at the minute. It’s disappointing. Obviously we created chances. It just wasn’t our night, it didn’t drop for us. It was one of them where it went the whole way and both teams sort of cancelled each other out in the end. A hard one to take at the minute, it’s heartbreaking and obviously very disappointing.”

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Gavin Cooney

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