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Stephen Kenny Thinks Seamus Coleman Is In "Best Spell Of His Career"

Stephen Kenny Thinks Seamus Coleman Is In "Best Spell Of His Career"
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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It was harder than it needed to be, but Stephen Kenny got his Ireland side over the line on Wednesday night in their home friendly against Latvia.

An at-times nervy 3-2 win saw the best bits of Ireland's performance defined by youthful exuberance, with debutants Will Smallbone and Mikey Johnston impressing alongside Evan Ferguson, on his highly-anticipated first start for Ireland.

The likes of James McClean and John Egan were given rests and time off the bench late on, while Seamus Coleman didn't even make an appearance on the night at the Aviva Stadium.

One man who put in a somewhat disappointing performance was right wing-back Matt Doherty. Since his recent move to Atletico Madrid, Doherty has struggled for game time, and he was outshone by the goalscoring Callum O'Dowda down the left flank on Wednesday night.

Despite playing an important role in both of Ireland's first two goals, Doherty's general play left some pundits questioning whether he should start against France on Monday, with captain Coleman the obvious alternative.

Speaking to the Irish media on Thursday afternoon, Ireland manager Stephen Kenny said that he believes Coleman can still do a job at right wing-back, as he said he felt the Everton man was enjoying the "best spell" of his career thus far.

Stephen Kenny says Seamus Coleman can still play right wing-back for Ireland

Stephen Kenny appeared alongside Ireland centre-back John Egan and Ireland women's player Abbie Larkin in a media day to mark Circle K's new sponsorship of the FAI on Thursday afternoon. The announcement of the new partnership sees Circle K become the Official Fuel and Convenience Partner to the FAI, partner to the Men’s and Women’s National Teams and title sponsor of FAI Club Mark.


The new partnership will see Circle K sponsor the FAI Club Mark, which recognises excellence in the governance of football clubs, as well as supporting grassroots football.

Abbie Larkin Stephen Kenny John Egan

Stephen Kenny, John Egan and Abbie Larkin pictured at the launch of Circle K’s new partnership with the Football Association of Ireland. Circle K joins The FAI as Official Fuel and Convenience Partner, partner to the Men’s and Women’s National Teams and the first ever title partner of FAI Club Mark, the association’s grassroots award to improve clubs and help grow football in communities throughout Ireland. For more information visit circlek.ie

Off the back of Wednesday night's win over Latvia, Stephen Kenny was asked for his thoughts on Seamus Coleman's suitability at right wing-back. Coleman struggled in the role in Ireland's 1-0 defeat to Armenia last summer, in a game which came at the end of a long season for the 33-year-old right-back, as a crucial pillar of Everton's successful battle to avoid relegation to the Championship.

Coleman was missing on Wednesday night, but will be in contention to start when France visit early next week, as Ireland face the World Cup runners-up in Dublin. Kenny said that any doubts on his suitability at wing-back could be explained by his relentless schedule last year, as well as his stunted recovery from injury - and that he believed the Everton captain was now back to his flying best:

Yes he can. I think he has probably had the best spell of his career in the last two years, I would say.

Obviously last year was such a tough year for him when he started recording hamstring injuries and couldn't get any rhythm in his training. He was probably having to play matches when he hadn't had the required time in training coming back - because needs must in a relegation battle. They wanted the captain, they put him in and then there was the injury count.

People saw in Armenia, when he played wing-back, he wasn't quite right, because he was in that phase of his career. Because that didn't go well for him and we lost, people said 'oh, well he can never play wing-back, he's just a right centre-back now.'

Looking at him in recent times...I was at the game against Brentford last week and he's getting up and down, flying up and down the line. He's been an attacking threat, he's had a run in training all season, completely injury free.

To me, it was never about age with Seamus. Obviously at 33-34, you're not the same as you are at 24, but I feel it was the rhythm of games and regular training, rather than an age issue. For me, yes he can.

At least one of Coleman or John Egan is likely to come in to Kenny's back five for the French game, with experience needed to stave off the threat of Kylian Mbappé and co. in Ireland's first EURO 2024 qualifier. When asked how he planned to stop the PSG superstar on Monday night, Kenny joked that he would welcome any ideas from the floor.

Will Smallbone

22 March 2023; Will Smallbone of Republic of Ireland in action against Arturs Zjuzins of Latvia during the international friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Latvia at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Kenny was coy when asked whether Will Smallbone - who impressed on his first senior appearance for Ireland on Wednesday night - would start the game against France. Kenny said that Smallbone would be "a part of the next few years for Ireland, but we'll have to see about Monday night."

And, of course, the man of the hour, Evan Ferguson. The 18-year-old Brighton striker has established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in the Premier League, and marked his first start for Ireland with his first goal in green on Wednesday night. Kenny once again evaded making any declarations on Monday night's team, but praised Ferguson for the way he had approached the Latvian game:


It's not a bad habit, scoring goals. I think it's terrific to get your first start and score. I'm sure he's scored more spectacular goals but the good thing about it is that he's always in the right place and has good natural instincts that get him in the right place consistently.

I don't mind the two strikes he had outside the box that went over the bar, I don't mind them. I wasn't disappointed with the fact that he tried that because I wanted him to do that - I'm happy to see the forwards shooting like that.

Monday's team is likely to strike a balance between youth and experience - but with the performances of Evan Ferguson and Will Smallbone, manager Stephen Kenny will at least feel he has plenty of options for the mammoth task ahead of Ireland.

SEE ALSO: Roy Keane Returns To Cobh Ramblers With Neville And Carragher In Tow

Roy Keane Gary Neville Jamie Carragher Cobh Ramblers


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