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'We only conceded 4 chances in 3 games' - Kenny plays down Ireland concerns

The Irish boss feels his side should not be judged solely on last Thursday’s friendly against England.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND BOSS STEPHEN Kenny is remaining upbeat in the wake of criticism following a 3-0 loss to England on Thursday.

When it was put to him that the team’s shape out of possession could be better, Kenny suggested theBoys in Green should not be judged solely on a friendly against a team that are currently fourth in the Fifa rankings.

“I think in the previous three games against Slovakia, Wales and Finland, collectively over 120, 90 and 90 minutes, we only conceded four chances and they weren’t that clear cut to be honest, so our shape was really, really good.

“We found it difficult to deal with England’s 3-4-3 the other night. I think we played well in the first half, played okay in the first 20 minutes. I was disappointed in the first 20 minutes of the second half in that we were far too passive. We can’t be as passive as we were in the first 20 minutes of the second half. We finished quite strongly in the game, but they were obviously a step up on the night.

“It could be a criticism, I accept the criticism for our shape out of possession against England the other night in that we found their movement of 3-4-3 difficult to deal with, so I see the point you’re making.”

Kenny also played down post-match comments made by Matt Doherty, with the Spurs star suggesting Ireland “need to wake up” and that there are “no easy games” for them at the moment, adding that it wasn’t his responsibility to put the arms around the shoulders of the younger players.

I think he made the point that they’re all men now and your question suggests that they’re only human and I accept that as well. I think that they are all men and I think they expect a lot from each other, regardless of age. And yeah, sometimes people need encouragement. Once you step across that white line, you have to be confident enough to play for your country. You’ve earned the right to be there, so you shouldn’t be fearful in any way, and that’s the way the players approach it.

“[Doherty] has just come off the pitch, he’s just come out, he’s disappointed, devastated to lose the game and he gave a reaction. I’m sure all the players were disappointed to lose 3-0. So no, I’m not going to get hung up on those comments to be honest.”

Kenny also suggested greater context was required when assessing the fact that Ireland have yet to win in his six games in charge, suggesting progress had been made despite some disappointing results.

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“You have to judge it in the context of our priority, which was to get to the Euros, so that was the Slovakia game, that was probably our best performance overall, I felt we played very well in that. 

“Subsequent to Slovakia, we lost eight players to Covid, never mind the injuries in the previous month, with Wales and Finland. But we still more than matched Wales in that game.

“If you go back to the first game against Bulgaria away and we had the thing of: ‘Can we go away and dominate possession, can an Irish team do that?’ ‘No we can’t, we don’t have the players to do that.’ Yes, we did that. But we lacked a bit of penetration. At times we need to pass the ball [with greater penetration].

We worked on that and against Slovakia, you saw that, we got more of that. There are two things that need to happen. Our forward players need to make better runs and our midfield players need to look forward more and be ambitious with their passing. These are the key traits in giving us a cutting edge. We have shown going to Bulgaria and going to Slovakia, with a good team that we’re capable of going away and controlling a game. We’ve seriously shown that but you want to add real cutting edge to the way you play. I accept we didn’t do that against England the other night because they were better than us overall.”

With the team’s goal-scoring issues well documented, one of the ways Kenny has attempted to boost morale has been to show his players a collage of all the chances they have created in recent times.

Asked to elaborate on this idea, the Ireland said: “Because they are with their clubs, they go away for a month and come back and some of them in the Championship would have four matches in 10 days, it’s constant midweek matches and you forget.

“They have to live in the moment and they are looking at their opponents on Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday for a month and then they come in, and they say they haven’t scored in the last few matches and there is criticism over that. So just to visually see that these were the chances in those three games in the last month [is important]. We only conceded four chances in the three, and then to visually see the chances we created in the three games, you can see we’re doing a lot right. We just let ourselves down with our finishing.” 

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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