'I think people want to see the new breed of Irish players'- Kenny

By Stephen Leonard

REPUBLIC of Ireland Under 21 manager Stephen Kenny insists the huge interest in emerging Irish soccer talent will help generate strong support for his side in their upcoming UEFA European Championship qualification campaign which kicks off against Luxembourg in Tallaght next month.

The Tallaght man, who is gearing up to take over the Ireland senior team next year, got his first real look at the home-based players he has at his disposal by way of a three-day training camp that culminated in a 1-0 victory over an experienced Ireland Amateur side in Whitehall last week.

Stephen Kenny 1644502

Stephen Kenny

Speaking to The Echo, Kenny said “It was a home-based squad, but I’m getting up to speed of them in the UK, watching games.

“We’re stronger in some positions than others. We have a high number of cen-tral defenders available, but not so many wingers, so there’s different challenges.

“I think we have a really exciting young group of players, particularly under the year 2000. 1998 is the Under 21 age group, but the years under 2000 we’ve got some very exciting forward players, some very exciting attacking players.

“I think the composition of the Under 21 team I have will be very young. There are a lot of 17 and 18-year-olds that are going to want to play, so it’s going to be young,” he predicted.

Looking ahead to the start of their European Under 21 qualification quest, Kenny said “I believe there will be huge interest in these games.

“These crop of young players that people are getting excited about, the Troy Parrotts, the Michael Obafemis, the Adam Idahs and all of these players who are catching the eye, there seems to be a lot of interest in them. I think people want to see the new breed of Irish players coming through” he insisted.

Kenny is under no illusions as to the depth of the challenge his new team faces in their bid to make the European Finals.

“Obviously we’re the fourth seeds in the group, Italy, Sweden and Iceland are seeded ahead of us and only one qualifies automatically so it’s tough. So that’s the challenge.

“So we’re going to try and start in March on Sunday the 24th against Luxembourg in Tallaght and we’re looking to get off to a winning start if we can.

“A home game against Luxembourg seems a good start, but France only beat them 3-2 and I think they drew with Slovenia. In international football there’s nothing easy and you have to earn the victories.

“We go to Toulon for 14 days in France to play in the Toulon Tournament which the Under 21 team hasn’t done for over a decade so that’s a great opportunity as well- the Toulon Tournament against England and France and all these teams, so that will be great.”

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