Stephen Kenny facing into his first match week as Ireland boss
Republic manager has a two-day training window with squad ahead of Bulgaria match
Stephen Kenny’s Ireland take on Bulgaria on Thursday night. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Almost two years after he was earmarked to take on the job, Stephen Kenny finally got to outline his plans for the coming campaigns at a squad meeting as his first international match week as senior team manager kicked off in Dublin. Even he admits to being unsure just how much change can be achieved in the two days of training scheduled before Thursday’s game against Bulgaria.
“We’ll only find that out,” he said before the meeting on Sunday. “But we have a clear idea in training what we want: Keith Andrews and Damian Duff have been working very hard to make sure that our messages are clear and consistent and exactly what we want in all areas of the park.
“Training has been set up with that in mind. There will be clear instruction. You’re right, it’s not easy to get everything in over two days but we will cover everything possible.”
The association’s current hierarchy seem supportive but Kenny is under no illusions about the need for him to make an early impression. The FAI’s financial issues have only been made more acute by the coronavirus crisis and aside from the money there is a good deal of pride on the line with regard to qualification for a European Championship that Ireland will play a part in staging.
“The easy thing is to come in and say we are looking at the long-term and we are,” he says. “We have a clear long-term vision and Dara O’Shea (called into the squad at 21 for the first time over the weekend) is another example of that.
“We have had eight or nine years without players really coming through the system. Now all of a sudden we have got five of the Under-21 squad who have come in and are already good to play but I’m not going to hide behind that.
“Life is short. You have got the Euros next year and the World Cup the year after. You want to do everything you can to qualify. You have to maximise every opportunity so I’m not deliberately going to play it down as some tactical mechanism.
“We’re all desperate; everyone in the country wants us to qualify for the Euros. We haven’t qualified through the group. The Nations League gives you a chance, and even though we finished bottom of Group B we have a chance, a back door if you like. Going away to Slovakia and Bosnia or Northern Ireland, it’s a big ask. But we believe and we want to get ourselves ready over the next couple of games to try and do that.”
In spite of his club manager Roy Hodgson’s scepticism regarding his chances of being fit, James McCarthy will be given every opportunity over the coming days, Kenny said, to play at least some part in the Bulgaria and Finland games, but Troy Parrott has returned to his club after he picked up an injury playing for Millwall on Saturday. Preston’s Sean Maguire has beed added to the squad.
There are couple of other “strains” around the squad suggested the manager and O’Shea is seen as having the capacity to provide cover right across the back four where numbers in the squad announced on Monday had been thin but he does not, he says, regard anyone else as being a significant doubt.
David McGoldrick was not due to link up with the squad until its return from Sofia and that, says Kenny, remains the plan although his staff will be monitoring the striker’s progress in training this week at Sheffield United where the striker is continuing his recovery from a foot injury.