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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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'This is the first time an Irish team has reached the semi-finals and the players deserve huge credit'

Ireland U21s manager Stephen Kenny is preparing his team to face Brazil, with a place in the final of the Toulon Tournament up for grabs.

Kenny speaking to FAI TV.
Kenny speaking to FAI TV.
Image: YouTube

IRELAND’S U21S PROGRESSED to the semi-finals of the Toulon Tournament yesterday, thanks to a 1-0 win over Bahrain

Connor Ronan’s deflected free-kick earned Stephen Kenny’s side a last-four meeting with Brazil on Wednesday afternoon, with Mexico and Japan facing off in the other tie earlier that day. 

Entering a team into the competition has proved to be a worthwhile exercise for the former Dundalk boss as he develops the next crop of talented footballers while preparing himself to take the senior Ireland job after Euro 2020, and he has been pleased with how his young group applied themselves. 

“We’re delighted to get seven points from the group,” Kenny said after the game. “We felt it was a difficult group, with China and Mexico putting out their Olympic qualifying teams, while Bahrain were somewhat of an unknown quantity. 

“So it was a terrific achievement by the players. We don’t take it lightly, a lot of great Irish players played in this tournament over many years. This is the first time an Irish team has reach the semi-finals, and the players deserve huge credit. 

It was tough on the energy levels with the heat and the humidity. We’ve had three games in six days, and two of them have been in the middle of the day. It’s been tough physically, and they have been gruelling games, but I think we caused our own problems by not putting Bahrain away.”

“We scored the first goal, then missed a penalty and some other great chances,” he added, reflecting on yesterday’s win. “2-0 would have made it comfortable but because it’s 1-0 it’s still in the balance and becomes a little bit nervy when it shouldn’t. 

“To be fair, Bahrain had some good attacking players and had a go but we defended very well and they didn’t really have too many clear-cut chances. 

“We’ve quite a lot of U19s players. Lee O’Connor at right-back was terrific and Aaron Connolly kept going. He played in three positions — centre forward, wide right and wide left — in that match and he did terrifically well to be still going at the end. Several others did too.”

Watch the full interview with Kenny below: 

Source: FAI TV/YouTube

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Ben Blake

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