Stephen Kenny says Slovakia play-off unlikely to fall before UEFA Nations League kicks off in September

Thu, Apr 09 2020
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None Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

Stephen Kenny expects to have at least one semi-competitive game under his belt before taking charge for the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia.

The Dubliner has taken charge from Mick McCarthy with immediate effect but won’t face the baptism of fire that would be a must-win tie in Bratislava first up.

Instead, Ireland are likely to face Finland away and Bulgaria at home, at the very least, in the UEFA Nations League in early September before that tie is rescheduled.

McCarthy had been due to take Ireland into the play-off, and a potential showdown with Northern Ireland or Bosnia and Herzegovina, for a place at the 2020 finals.

The shutdown of football and the postponement of the Euros until next summer put paid to that and prompted the FAI to bring forward under-21 boss Kenny’s promotion from August to April.

Kenny has been careful not to appear unduly satisfied by his accelerated promotion, however, given it’s come on the back of a worldwide pandemic that has killed more than 200 in Ireland alone.

“There are more important things in the world right now, without doubt,” Kenny said in his first press conference as manager, via videolink from his County Louth home.

“Is it the right thing to do interviews and press conferences at this time, there is a moral dilemma there, and whether it’s right or wrong, but I do think people need something to look forward to.

“Everyone in lockdown needs something to look forward to, and the games in the Autumn, nine games.

“Obviously [with[ the Euros play-off and the 6 Nations League games, with a friendly and then World Cup qualifiers in March, there’s a lot to look forward to.”

FAI interim CEO Gary Owens revealed last week that the association are actively lobbying for the playoff games to be held as late as November following the enforced shutdown.

Kenny suggested that it’s unlikely the Slovakia game will go ahead before the resumption of the Nations League in September, so he will have at least two games to bed in.

“Slovakia doesn't look like it'll be the first game. If it is no problem. We'll prepare accordingly. If it was the game would I pick the same squad as if I had five games to prepare for that sixth game?

“Would I pick a different squad? These are things that you have to analyse. It'll be club form as well as a tactical approach.

“Players playing in teams and getting into their starting XIs and performing and hopefully that can influence the decision.”

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