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Irish Under-21 Schedule Works Out Well For Stephen Kenny's Succession Plan

Irish Under-21 Schedule Works Out Well For Stephen Kenny's Succession Plan
By Gavin Cooney

Stephen Kenny will be available to take charge of all but one of the Irish under-21s' European qualification campaign.

Kenny is in charge of the under-21s until August 2020, at which point he will succeed Mick McCarthy as senior manager. The timing means that he was always going to be unable to assume control of a full under-21s campaign, but the draw and dates have worked out such that he will only miss Ireland's final - and most difficult - game, away to Italy on October 13th. It had been feared that he could miss as many as four games, although he would miss a play-off should Ireland get that far.

Ireland have been handed a tough draw, landing in a group with Italy, Sweden, Iceland, Armenia, and Luxembourg.

They begin the campaign at home to Luxembourg on March 24th, and then won't play again until September.

Here is the fixture list in full.

2019

March 24: Luxembourg (H)
September 6: Armenia (H)
September 10: Sweden (a)
October 10: Italy (H)
October 15: Iceland (a)
November 14: Armenia (a)
November 19: Sweden (H)

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2020

March 26: Iceland (H)
March 31: Luxembourg (a)
October 13: Italy (a)

Kick-off times and venues will be confirmed at a later date.

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Ireland have never qualified for a tournament at under-21 level and it will be extremely difficult to do so this time around. While the top side qualifies automatically, there are only two play-off spots up for grabs across the nine groups, with only one team progressing.

Speaking at the draw in Nyon, Kenny said that it would have to be an "extraordinary" achievement to qualify.

There are a number of teams in our group with great pedigree. Italy got to the U19 European Championship finals recently so to test ourselves against these teams is going to be a great experience.

With the two hosts qualifying automatically, there are only two play-off spots for qualification which in reality means we've got to finish top to qualify. For us to do that, we'll have to achieve something extraordinary.

See Also: Watch: Carragher & Neville On Key Developments Of Liverpool From Last Season

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