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Stephen Kenny: 'It has been a tough period... But I'm not complaining about that'

The Ireland boss has seen a number of important players ruled out of late.

Stephen Kenny (file pic).
Stephen Kenny (file pic).
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated at 17.19

IRELAND BOSS Stephen Kenny insists he is not getting too downhearted, despite last Thursday’s 3-0 loss to England extending his team’s winless run to six games since taking over.

A first defeat to the Three Lions in 35 years was a setback, but Kenny says the upcoming Nations League fixtures have always been the priority.

“I think everyone was disappointed to lose against England. It was a difficult game playing England in Wembley — Ireland have never won in Wembley, we wanted to try to achieve that. 

“They’re in good form and it’s probably the first match we’ve played that we’ve been not in the ascendancy for a lot of the game. We were disappointed to lose the game, but you’ve got a quick turn-around. 

“The Nations League games were the greater priority overall with points at stake, so we’ve got to focus on Wales tomorrow and Bulgaria on Wednesday.”

In addition to some disappointing results, Kenny has been unfortunate to lose a number of important players, both in this international window and the last one, due to injury and Covid-related absences.

The manager acknowledged it was a problem, but said he didn’t want it to look as if he was making excuses.

It has been a tough period, I won’t deny that, last month and this month in relation to all that has gone on, but I’m not complaining about that, you have got to deal with it and that is part of where we are now. We have got to dust ourselves down quickly and make sure we are really positive today in training and make sure we are ready for tomorrow. That’s important.

“Every single player going out wants to earn every cap, every cap when they play is important to them, so the chance to represent their country is a big ambition for them all. We know it’s a tough game in Wales tomorrow, we know they are on a great run, but we want to go and try to win the game.

“I’m not pleased that we haven’t scored, I’m disappointed that we haven’t scored in the last few games and we did a collage of the opportunities that we had over the previous four games, leaving the England game out, and we watched it together collectively, I said we missed a very, very high number of chances, but we were creating chances. 

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“The England game was a tougher game for us, Alan Browne’s chance aside and some half chances, it was a difficult game to create chances. This is a new game against Wales, and we want to try to perform well and we want to try to get that elusive win that we need.”

With some many players ruled out, Kenny has had the opportunity to blood a couple of youngsters, including 21-year-old centre-back Dara O’Shea, after he earned his second cap against England.

When you think about a mentality, Dara is an example of the kind of mentality that you would want an Irish player to have, because he’s gone on loan to the the Southern Premier League with Hereford first of all, then gone and played 30-odd games for Exeter in League Two, before he went to West Brom and played a part in their promotion-winning season, and now he’s played some games in the Premier League.

“He’s been a consistent improver over the age groups and he’s a very god young professional.”

Like O’Shea, Jason Knight is another player Kenny previously worked with in the Ireland U21 set-up, and it was confirmed today that the Derby youngster had been promoted to the senior squad.

Asked about the decision, which meant Knight would have to be miss the U21 side’s crucial upcoming qualifiers, Kenny said: “Well, Jason is not here to make up the numbers. We may have included him before now, but we didn’t want to include him to sit in the stand when he could be playing for the U21s in an important qualifier. 

“But this is the senior international team, that’s the purpose of under-age set-up, to produce players for the senior international team.

“He’s only 19 and he’s made his debut in Finland — again playing every week in the Championship for Derby County, and he’s got tremendous drive for one so young.”

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Paul Fennessy

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