Kenny pleased with Masterson-O’Shea pairing

By Stephen Leonard

REPUBLIC of Ireland Under 21 manager Stephen Kenny was impressed with the pairing of Conor Masterson and Dara O’Shea at the heart of his side’s defence in their hugely stylish 3-0 victory over Luxembourg that brought the curtain up on their European Champ-ionship qualification campaign in Tallaght Stadium in Sunday.

Both turned in very solid performances with former Lucan United player Masterson even igniting the attack that led to their third goal midway through the second half with a sublime delivery up to eventual scorer Adam Idah when he was under pressure deep inside his own box.

U 21 Action 008

Former Lucan United defender Conor Masterson together with Dara O'Shea challenge for a high-ball.

Two goals by Idah either side of a Neil Farrugia effort were more than enough to see the hosts make a winning start in a game that saw the visitors very limited in terms of chances although Master-son did have to close down a strike by Clayton Duarte 21 minutes in.

Kenny appeared pleased with his decision to play Masterson and O’Shea especially given the huge amount of competition that exists within the Ireland Under 21 camp for the centre half roles.

“I left some good centre backs out” said Kenny after the victory on Sunday. “Liam Scales had an unbelievable week and did terrific, and Corrie Ndaba has really emerged, come on a lot so much and signed a new three-and-a half-year deal at Ipswich.

“There’s a lot of competition, so I thought Conor and Dara looked a good pairing today and they’re both good char-acters and I thought they performed very well as a pairing.

“Dara O’Shea, I appointed him vice captain, and he marshalled the back four really well I felt.

“There wasn’t really any attempts on goal and Caoimhin [Kelleher] didn’t have any saves to make so I want a culture of clean sheets within the team.

“When you’re building a back four that’s very important. You don’t give any presents away from wide free kicks or corner kicks and you don’t allow crosses in cheaply.

“These are all important fundamentals in defending and there’ll be bigger tests ahead, but the defenders did very well” he added.

While Kenny was pleased with the performance of Masterson, he believes the former Lucan player still faces a big challenge in trying to break into the first team at Anfield.

“It’s just so hard to get into Liverpool” he stressed. “They’re one of the top teams in the world, so he [Masterson] is at a period where he needs to play matches.

“Conor’s had injuries and been in an out of the [Under] 23 team [at Liverpool]. A club like Liverpool, they’ve got such an array of centre backs, Van Dyke, Gomez, Matip.

“He’s probably at a stage of his career where he needs to play games. He’s 20 now and, he’s possibly looking at, if he is to stay with Liverpool, a period on loan with a club to get some games.

“Conor is at a little bit of a crossroads. He’s probably looked at Dara O’Shea going to Exeter, getting 30 games and really develop-ed, and a year younger

“But his [Masterson’s] attitude was good this week. He’s a good person, with good attributes and centre back has the most competition of all the roles” he emphasised.

Sunday’s match also saw some game time for St Patrick’s Athletic midfield-er Jamie Lennon who acquitted himself well when introduced for cap-tain Jayson Molumby after 77 minutes while Sham-rock Rovers’ Brandon Kavanagh also made a late appearance.

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