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Kenny: 'We’ve been too reluctant to put young players into the senior team over last two decades'

The U21 boss did reserve praise for Mick McCarthy’s promotion of a trio of teenagers in recent months.

Stephen Kenny after last night's win over Sweden.
Stephen Kenny after last night's win over Sweden.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Nov 20th 2019, 9:11 PM

IRISH U21 MANAGER and senior boss-in-waiting Stephen Kenny has stated his belief that Irish football has been too reticent to promote young players to the senior set-up. 

Speaking to Off the Ball after his U21 side came from behind to beat Sweden 4-1 in a Euro 2021 qualifier last night, Kenny accentuated the youth in his squad and elaborated on his wider belief that Irish football has been too slow to promote youth. 

Last night’s starting team featured two 17-year-olds (Troy Parrott and Gavin Bazunu) and a trio of 18-year-olds in Nathan Collins, Adam Idah and Jason Knight. 

“I consciously made a decision to pick the players with the most potential, as it is about development for the future”, said Kenny.

“I suppose it’s to the detriment to our U19s. Tom Mohan is doing a terrific job with the U19s.

“But we want out players to get access to U21 football earlier, and hence if they do well at that level earlier they are ready for the first team earlier.

“I’ve always felt we’ve been too reluctant to put young players into the senior international team over the last two decades, to be honest. 

“We consider someone [who is] 24 young. We put a 24-year-old in and we’re talking about a young player coming in.” 

Kenny did not include the current senior set-up in his diagnosis, however, and he praised Mick McCarthy’s handing senior debuts to Aaron Connolly, Lee O’Connor and Parrott in recent months. 

“To be fair, it’s great to see in recent times Aaron Connolly stepping up, along with Lee O’Connor and Troy Parrott.

“Overall it’s probably not justified on their club form. Although Aaron scored two goals against Tottenham and has got into the Brighton team, Troy and Lee haven’t been playing for their clubs while Aaron has just broken in.

“But it is good to see that there is a progression and an opportunity. And to be fair to Mick McCarthy he has selected those players in the international team and I think it’s great to see payers progressing and stepping up quickly.

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“For example, Seamus Coleman was probably one of the best right-backs in England and didn’t go to the Euros [in 2012] at that time.

“Even John Egan went for four million for Brentford to Sheffield United a few years ago, and at that stage he was probably ready, in my opinion.

“There has been a reluctance over the years, but it must start. There must be a cohesive plan across the 15s, 16s, 17s, 18s to promote players younger.

“You see the U15s winning again yesterday, the U17s topped their group to get through, obviously the U19s have got to the semi-finals of the Euros.

“We must move players up through the age grades quicker. That’s not everyone’s viewpoint, but I think it’s about getting players to play at the highest possible level as soon as they are ready and not delaying that progress.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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