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Stephen Kenny admits 'room for improvement' after Ireland draw

The Irish boss also praised Aaron Connolly after placing faith in the youngster.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, Robbie Brady, John Egan and assistant manager Keith Andrews after the game.
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, Robbie Brady, John Egan and assistant manager Keith Andrews after the game.
Image: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

IRELAND BOSS Stephen Kenny praised his side’s resilience but also admitted there was “room for improvement” after his first game in charge.

A last-gasp Shane Duffy header earned Ireland a 1-1 draw in Thursday night’s Nations League opener against Bulgaria, and Kenny felt the outcome was the least his side deserved.

“We controlled the game for long periods and created some good chances, which we didn’t capitalise on,” he told reporters at the post-match press conference.

“But also, we were vulnerable on the counter-attack and Bulgaria had some chances on the counter-attack.

“We were largely controlling the game and Bulgaria had a spell for about five minutes in that second half where they got on top and scored.

“We were disappointed to concede, but we dominated more or less for the rest of the game and Bulgaria sat deeper, were difficult to break down and defended very well.

“I was pleased with how the players showed composure and a determination and that was epitomised by Robbie Brady’s closing down of the Bulgarian defender. A great effort, won the corner and then took a bit of flight on the corner and Shane scored a really brilliant header to equalise.”

Finally getting the chance to manage his country, almost two years after the initial succession plan involving Mick McCarthy was confirmed, Kenny said the experience represented “the ultimate honour”.

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“The game itself, because we haven’t had an international game at any level really since last November, that’s my first experience of no crowd at the game and it is quite surreal not having a crowd at an international game,” Kenny added.

“We would have had a passionate Bulgarian support and a really great Irish travelling support. It is unusual circumstances, but the players are just an exceptional group of people, a very humble group and they give everything of themselves. Their attitude is first class.

I’m disappointed we didn’t win tonight, but we didn’t lose and that point could be important. We showed a lot of quality and we made mistakes also, so some good play and room for improvement also.”

There were some surprises in Kenny’s starting XI, with Adam Idah handed a senior debut, as well as Aaron Connolly and man-of-the-match Callum O’Dowda either side of him.

And Kenny said he was satisfied with the contribution of the inexperienced trio, reserving praise for the Brighton youngster in particular.

“I think the front three, Callum O’Dowda, Adam Idah at centre forward and Aaron Connolly don’t have many caps between them.

“Aaron has had just one start in a competitive game before [tonight]. He hasn’t played on the left for his club in a long time or really ever, although he played in the U21 international team on the left. So he had to adapt to that.

“He’s a real goal threat as you see and that’s a big part of it. He gives you something different in that front three in that he creates and scores goals, and he’s a handful. So he had a decent game.”

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Paul Fennessy

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