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Stephen Kenny Sees Bright Ireland Future For Southampton Midfielder

Stephen Kenny Sees Bright Ireland Future For Southampton Midfielder
By PJ Browne

Stephen Kenny was among 3,126 in attendance at Tallaght Stadium on Monday night as the Ireland U21s notched a vital 3-1 victory against Montenegro in qualifying for next year's European Championships.

The scoring was opened just before half-time by Southampton midfielder Will Smallbone. The 22-year-old hit a venomous strike from outside the box to the bottom right-hand corner, adding to the two goals he scored against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday.

"I must say he's had a tough time, an unfortunate cruciate ligament injury, and one or two other injuries," Kenny said when asked if Smallbone should keep his phone switched on in anticipation of a senior call-up.

"I'd love to see him get a run of games because he definitely was exceptional yesterday. It was great to see that. He'll obviously go and play in Italy next week for the U21s.

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"He definitely has a future with the senior international team, we would feel, if he continues in that vein of form."

The Ireland senior team play Ukraine in Dublin on Wednesday, hoping to make some amends for their disappointing defeat to Armenia at the weekend. Kenny said he won't be making too many changes to the team which lost 1-0.

6 June 2022; Will Smallbone of Republic of Ireland, second from right, celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA European U21 Championship qualifying group F match between Republic of Ireland and Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

"Just because you have a setback doesn't mean you leave half the team out," said Kenny.

"Maybe some players weren't full fit having not played in four or five weeks going in, and then can they go again? These are the dilemmas. We wouldn't expect wholesale changes. The four-day turnaround is not too drastic.

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"Gavin Bazunu has left the camp. He had a minor rib fracture. Seamus Coleman is ruled out through injury. He has a groin issue. He's ruled out of the game. There are no guarantees he'll feature in the other two games. We'll have to see how it settles, and make a decision on that later in the week. Hopefully, he will be involved in the later games, but it's too early to say."

See Also: Tyreik Wright Plans Ireland Revenge On Italy In U21 Qualifier

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