Surreal experience for Stephen Kenny on debut game in empty stadium

Fri, Sep 04 2020

Stephen Kenny Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

Stephen Kenny described his first competitive match in charge of the Republic of Ireland  as a 'surreal' experience with no fans in the stadium.

A lot to work on still but with just three days of training under their belts and the majority of the team still in early pre season, you get the feeling that once he takes everything into account this morning, Kenny will be fairly satisfied with their evenings work.

"That's my first experience of no crowds at the game and it is quite surreal. It is very unusual circumstances but the players are an exceptional group of people" reflected Kenny after the game. 

"We are down that we didn't win but we also didn't lose and that point could still be very important for us down the line. We showed a lot of quality but we made mistakes also.

"We were dissapointed to concede but we dominated the rest of the game and Bulgaria went deep and defended well, defended very well.  They beat the Czech Republic here 1-0 and from watching that we knew they are very difficult to break down.

"The players gave everything tonight and are still only in early pre-season. We never deserved to lose that game, we could have won it if we had of taken our chances early on."

Over the 90 minutes the Republic of Ireland were the better side, they showed well in possession and even better without the ball with an impactful high press throughout the game. The players were eager to get on the ball with flurries of attacking play giving us a glimpse of what Kenny is hoping to instill in the Boys in Green. 

Aaron Connolly's energetic performance was a positive on the night with the Galway man a real handful going forward. On more than one occassion, Connolly chased down balls that could have been dismissed as lost causes resulting in two very good chances in front of goal in the opening half.

"He is a real goal threat as you've seen and that's a big part of it. He brings something different up front and he creates and scores goals, he's a handful and he had a decent game."

Not for the first time with this squad, Ireland displayed great character until the death and a 93rd minute header from captain Shane Duffy gave Ireland a share of the spoils, the least they deserved from their evenings work.

"Considering it was such a late equaliser you are hoping that it's a point gained, a terrific goal from Shane [Duffy] and Robbie Brady did absolutely brilliant for it. He chased it down really late on first of all to win the corner and then produced a delivery like that. 

"It's our first game after just three days training but it's important now we dust ourselves down and get ready for Finland."