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'I'll promote players that are Irish' - Kenny sets out stall as Irish U21s manager

The former Dundalk boss today unveiled his backroom staff as he settles into his new job.

Stephen Kenny today announced his first squad as the new Irish U21s manager.
Stephen Kenny today announced his first squad as the new Irish U21s manager.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN KENNY SAYS that his main objective as Irish U21s manager is merely to select the best players available to him, rather than capping foreign-born players to introduce them to the Irish setup. 

The U21 setup has been criticised in the past for picking too many players from outside the Irish underage structure, instead choosing Irish-eligible players from other systems with a view to capping them at senior level in the future. 

Kenny, however, says that none of his squad selections will be based on where a player is from. 

“I make my own decisions. That won’t be one of my main objectives.

Getting players qualified isn’t one of my main objectives. I’ll pick the best players for the campaign, the players I think have the most potential in the future, and try and nurture them and develop them into a cohesive team that wants to play for Ireland, and enjoys playing for Ireland more than anything. 

“I’ll promote players that are Irish. That’s the bottom line. I don’t have preconceived prejudices on where I should [pick players from]. For example, there are players going on loan to Holland, there’s a player in Italy and in Germany.

“I don’t have a directive. We’ll pick the best Irish players and the players with the best potential, with a view to being the best team we can and with the wider objective to produce players for the senior team”. 

The former Dundalk manager today fulfilled his first media duties since being handed an FAI tracksuit, naming a squad of domestic players for a training camp next month.

Stephen Kenny Kenny speaks to the assembled media at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The players will gather in Dunboyne on Monday, 4 February for a two-day training camp that will culminate in a game against the Ireland Amateur team at Whitehall Stadium on Wednesday night at 19:45. He thanked the League of Ireland clubs involved for agreeing to release the selected players.

Kenny’s backroom staff was also unveiled, with Irish U18s manager Jim Crawford and former Irish international and U17s coach Keith Andrews confirmed as his assistants. 

“It is an advantage as they know a lot of the players. They have been involved with the U17 and U18 international groups. I brought them in as I believe in them as people, their character and their talent as coaches”.

He refused to forecast whether Crawford and Andrews would join him when he assumes the senior job in 2020, instead saying his sole focus is on the U21 squad. 

Stephen Kenny Kenny will take over as Ireland senior boss from Mick McCarthy after Euro 2020. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kenny’s squad will also be taking part in the highly-respected Toulon tournament in June, at which Ireland will be guaranteed at least four games. Given the standard of the competition, along with the fact that Ireland have never qualified for a tournament at this age grade before, Kenny believes it is a good opportunity for the squad to gauge their standard. 

These games, along with the seven slated European Championship qualifiers, gives Ireland an “unprecedented” number of U21 games in 2019, making it a “brilliant opportunity for players to come in and stake their claim”. 

As fourth seeds, Ireland were handed a difficult qualifying draw for the Euros, but Kenny preached optimism. 

We’ve got a tough group with Italy, Sweden and Iceland, Armenia and Luxembourg, but we will be absolutely positive in our approach, and will try to blood the players that we feel deserve an opportunity. 

The manager confirmed that he watched Troy Parrott play a small role in a recent U23s clash between Spurs and Liverpool, but said it is too early to say as to whether he or fellow starlet Adam Idah will be fast-tracked into his squad. Parrott is still eligible for the Irish U17s this year. 

It’s something that we have to consider. It’s early to make statements as to who will be in the squad. It’s premature to suggest as to who we will pick in the squad at this stage. There’s no doubt that they are players of potential. 

Kenny’s first competitive game in charge of the Irish U21s will be the European qualifier against Luxembourg in Tallaght on Sunday, 24 March. 

Republic of Ireland U-21 Training squad

Goalkeepers: Conor Kearns (UCD), Ross Treacy (Dundalk)

Defenders: Andy Lyons (Bohemians), Darragh Leahy (Bohemians), Conor McCarthy (Cork City), Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers), Liam Scales (UCD), John Mahon (Sligo Rovers).

Midfielders: Dan Mandriou (Bohemians), Aaron Bolger (Shamrock Rovers), JJ Lunney (Waterford), Jamie Lennon (St. Patrick’s Athletic), Brandon Kavanagh (Shamrock Rovers), Robbie McCourt (Bohemians).

Forwards: Ronan Hale (Crusaders), Neil Farrugia (UCD), Michael O’Connor (Linfield), Will Fitzgerald (Limerick), Zach Elbouzedi (Waterford), Karl O’Sullivan (Limerick).

Originally published at 17.23

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