Stephen Kenny holds door open for League of Ireland players: 'I don't discriminate against anyone'

Thu, Apr 09 2020

None Credit: Liam Coughlan (ETPhotos)

Stephen Kenny insists the door is open for League of Ireland players to establish themselves in the senior international set-up as he takes over from Mick McCarthy.

The four-times league winner with Dundalk takes control of the senior team ahead of what promises to be a hectic conclusion to 2020 with as many as nine games on the cards in three months.

At least one of those games will be a play-off for a spot at Euro 2020, part of which will take place in Dublin, while six UEFA Nations League games are also pencilled in for September and October.

It’s likely the latter, rather than the former, will present the opportunity for domestic-based players to make their case for inclusion.

Currently, Shamrock Rovers playmaker is the only League of Ireland-based player to be a regular in international squads having debuted in a friendly win over Bulgaria last summer.

Kenny saw Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle called up in 2016 while in charge at Dundalk, although both were Preston North End players by the time they made their international bows that summer.

Byrne appears to be the sort of player who could benefit from Kenny’s oversight, though the likes of Michael Duffy, whom Kenny signed for Dundalk, is surely also in contention.

Kenny noted the transformative effect qualifying for the Europa League had for both the fortunes of Boyle and Horgan and, indeed, for his own standing in the international game.

And he pointed to the recent league tie between Rovers and Dundalk in Tallaght, when Jordan Flores and Byrne traded wonderstrikes, to emphasis the quality at the higher end of the league.

“I think it helps when, it’s not an absolute criteria but it does help, when there’s progress in Europe and players are playing in either the Europa League or Champions League qualifiers,” he said.

“Hopefully teams can progress this year again in that regard. It does help, and I think that helped Daryl Horgan, for example, in the past and Andy Boyle progress, that period with Dundalk in 2016.

“I don’t discriminate against anyone, no matter where they’re playing, and we seen a really high standard of a game between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers recently in Tallaght.

“Everyone will be judged on their own individual merits. You want players playing at the highest possible level, but at the same time there are players who can emerge and you can’t dismiss that.

“It’s not a mathematical equation – you have to base it on your judgement and instinct and what you see with your eyes. That’s really it. These are personal decisions in the end.”

Kenny had enjoyed a fruitful 18 months in charge of the Irish under-21s, overseeing the group’s development from fringe players at club level to superstar potential.

Troy Parrott, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly have each debuted at Premier League level since coming under Kenny’s purview, however the step up to senior international level is steep again.

“I think what will determine that is how players go in pre-season, how they go in pre-season games and if they can get into first teams.

“It gives an opportunity if they’re in the Premier League or Championship, one or two of whom have already been capped by Mick McCarthy.

“For players who are on the fringes, they can put themselves into contention by getting into the first teams at their clubs.

“It is a fact that the under-23 league, for example, there is a big jump between that and the first team. The jump is far too big.

“I hope I have headaches, that will mean pre-season has gone well for players and they have entered the new season in the team with their clubs.

“Some players may benefit from loan experience, and we have a number of talented players coming through, albeit they are quite young.

“It depends on how they progress, but I do believe in the young generation of Irish players coming through. There is a good group coming through – we are not relying on one or two individuals.”


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