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'We're leaving the stadium disappointed that we haven't won the game'

Stephen Kenny reacts to the 1-1 draw with Ukraine.

Stephen Kenny.
Stephen Kenny.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN KENNY ADMITTED he was disappointed Ireland didn’t win their Nations League tie with Ukraine in Poland tonight, with Artem Dovbyk’s goal early in the second half cancelling out Nathan Collins’ stunning solo effort.

“The Ukraine are a quality team, there’s no question about that, they’ve got really exceptional technical footballers”, said Kenny. “I’ve enjoyed watching them in preparation for the games. But overall, we’re leaving the stadium disappointed that we haven’t won the game having taken the lead, particularly. That was the key thing.

“I’d have to see the goal we conceded again, we seemed to be wide-open and it looks like a goal that we could have prevented, so I’m a little bit frustrated because after that, although Ukraine had some penetration on the left side particularly with Mudryk, who is very quick and under-laps there, they got into those left-wing positions frequently.

“But they’d no clear-cut chances from it. We defended our box quite well and we had an opportunities in possession ourselves in the final third and a fair degree of penetration, but we just couldn’t get the winner that we wanted, that we deserved.

“I can’t fault the players, they were really excellent. Their attitude was brilliant and I can’t really fault the players, they were tremendous.”

And so to his goalscoring centre-back. Collins is the only outfield player to play every minute of Ireland’s four-game window, and he crowned that with a fabulous goal to put Ireland ahead just after the half-hour mark. 

“Nathan has established himself, he’s caught the imagination. The four games he’s played, he’s been really exceptional in all four games. His decision-making for one so young is excellent and obviously he’s got a lot of very good attributes and you feel that he’s improving all the time.

“It was a special goal to score away from home, a very special goal and he deserves huge credit for that.

The result means Ireland have collected four points from their four games, bouncing back from the listless defeats to Armenia and at home to Ukraine’s second string with tonight’s draw and the 3-0 victory over Scotland. 

“I’d have preferred a higher points total. If we’d have won today… I definitely would have.

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“But I thought it was very harsh to lose the opening two games, to be honest. To have no points from that was very difficult to take because we hardly conceded a chance in either game. 

“But to respond in the manner we did – it was a real kick in the teeth and the players showed great character. To respond in the manner they did and beat Scotland 3-0 in the Aviva Stadium, it was an amazing day, an amazing night. 

“Then today, to lose Seamus Coleman, John Egan, Shane Duffy, et cetera and Michael, our centre-forward, to lose those experienced players…the back three, I felt, tonight were really exceptional, Darragh Lenihan, Dara O’Shea and of course Nathan Collins was really exceptional.

“Today was a good platform to go and play and we played well – but I want us to be even better than that, I want us to improve again. I think we’re capable of evening getting better and the capacity there for improvement is high. I think we can even get better.

“Credit to Ukraine, they’ve been through such a tough time themselves and credit to them as a nation for doing brilliantly. They didn’t go to the World Cup, but they obviously performed well and lead the group, so credit to the Ukrainian players.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the LKS Stadium, Lodz, Poland

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