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Stephen Kenny Says Qualification, Not Blooding Youngsters, His Main Concern

Stephen Kenny Says Qualification, Not Blooding Youngsters, His Main Concern
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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This already feels like it could be a defining campaign for Stephen Kenny. While there may not be a minimum requirement of World Cup qualification, we will want to see some major improvements from the poor run at the end of last year.

Ireland will be in a difficult group alongside Portugal and Serbia, opening their campaign against the latter on Wednesday evening.

Kenny named his squad for the upcoming fixtures earlier today, with a number of players that featured under him at U21 level included.

You could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the Irish boss sees this campaign primarily as an opportunity to blood those youngster for future years, with immediate results less of a concern. However, that is not the case.


Speaking to the media after today's squad announcement, Kenny confirmed that this is the group of players he feels puts Ireland in the best position to win right now.

It's putting the best players, in my view, that we have together. It's a combination of youth and experience.

We have a vision of how we want to play going forward and to create opportunities for players to come through and be given an opportunity, but we're not just saying that we are looking at the next campaign.

That's not the reality. You get opportunities in life and World Cup qualification is one of them. You have to try your best and do everything you can to try and get there.

The odds are against you. You have Portugal who are the European champions and the Nations League champions, and Serbia are very strong. Nevertheless it's only eight games and a good start can put you in a good position in a group.

I think a lot of these players for Germany 2024 (next Euros campaign) will be even further down the line in their careers, they'll be a lot stronger, but the focus is on the game on Wednesday. We have a blend of youth and experience.

The goalkeeping position is certainly one area that has plenty of youth.

Darren Randolph's injury means that the four goalkeepers included have a combined four caps, with all of them yet to make their competitive debuts.

Kenny has revealed that Keiren Westwood was considered for selection, but was not fit enough to join up with the squad. Instead, Caomhín Kelleher is set to start in Belgrade if he can overcome his recent injury issues, with Mark Travers second in line.


I can see where people would be concerned about the lack of experience, I understand that.

Darren Randolph in the seven competitive games had only conceded four goals. I think he has played 38 consecutive games, so he has been a very consistent player for Ireland.

Caoimhín has played ten U21 internationals under me and was brilliant, he did really well. He has played five games for Liverpool this year, two in the Champions League, so he is used to big games.

Mark Travers is the next one in. Mark has played for Ireland already, made his debut, and played some important games for Bournemouth. He had a loan spell at Swindon.

Gavin [Bazunu] is a brilliant young prospect and Kieran [O'Hara] has been in the squad before. That's where we are at the moment, they're the best goalkeepers that we have.

SEE ALSO: Stephen Kenny Names Ireland Squad For March World Cup Qualifiers



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