Irish fans received much-needed clarity on a very busy of autumn of international football yesterday. We have dates and times for our games League of Nations games with Bulgaria and Finland in September, and most importantly, we have a date for the long-anticipated Euro 2020 playoff with Slovakia --- Thursday October 8.
With the dates fixed, Stephen Kenny can start to firmly focus on preparations for that vital Slovakia match. Speaking to FAI TV this evening, Kenny said his team have been knee-deep in research for the games. He added that he would be opening the competition for places in his team, especially in midfield. James McCarthy, Harry Arter and Jayson Molumby were three players Kenny mentioned specifically.
The discussion starts around 3.38 here.
"I think James McCarthy has exceptional talent ...We want to increase our options. Of course, Harry Arter hasn't featured in the campaign (bar away to Gibraltar). Harry's been in the system since U16s with Ireland ... I think it's good to increase our options. I think it's good to have a level of competition. Competition drives people to be even better."
Kenny went on to praise both Shane Long and David McGoldrick for earning new contracts with their respective clubs.
A lot will happen between now and October but Kenny provided a real insight into the players he is looking at for the autumn. The McCarthy mention is interesting as the Palace midfielder has not player for Ireland in four years. Central midfield is one of Ireland's weakest areas and it's telling that Kenny today namechecked three central midfielders as he looks to put his own stamp on this team ahead of that big trip to Bratislava.