Stephen Kenny mindful of player's workload ahead of his first home game

Sat, Sep 05 2020

Stephen Kenny speaking ahead of Sunday's game against Finland Credit: Macdara Ferris (ETPhotos)

Macdara Ferris reports from FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown

On Sunday Stephen Kenny will take charge of his first home game as Republic of Ireland manager. Despite the empty stadium due to the pandemic, it will be a proud day for the Tallaght man.

Speaking to the media on the eve of the match, Kenny spoke about the strange nature of this UEFA Nations League tie that is being played essentially as part of pre-season and behind-closed doors.

“For some of our players that was their first game in six months,” said Kenny about last Thursday’s game in Bulgaria. “Most international managers in the past would have a full week to prepare for the game. We had two days then went to Bulgaria and had a session in the stadium. 

“We are not complaining, just delighted that the football is on. We would love to be there at home in front of a full stadium, that is something the players dream about. That is not the case. It is a proud moment for the players. They know that the Irish supporters will be with us.”

The fact that Kenny has had such a short time with the squad will play into his selection on Sunday and he also has one eye on getting his team set up for the upcoming EURO 2020  play-off. 

“The game (against Bulgaria) took it out of some players. They haven't had a lot of football so that comes into your thinking. We want to win our first game here in the Aviva Stadium but we also have to plan for the play-off against Slovakia.

“Continuity is important but you need energy as well with regards to selection. We want a closer look at other options for the playoff but this game is important in their own right.

“It is important we have options, in international football you ever know who might be injured or who is available from one window to the next, so it is important we know we have options.”

David McGoldrick is back in the squad but his injury looks like it will keep him out of the side with Adam Idah likely retaining his place. 

“It wasn’t easy debut for Adam. Every pass was keenly contested. Bulgaria marked very tightly and were very aggressive in centre defence. He had a good debut and led the line showing what he possesses.”

Kenny also heaped praise on James McCarthy but spoke about managing his work load.

"James is a really really exceptional player. He has a brilliant range of passing, he’s got every pass you need for a midfield player. Plus, he offers a lot of protection to the back four.

"He reads it so well and he’s quick over the ground but he is just in pre-season, and we have to manage James as well. It is early for him, he hasn’t played a league game yet.”