Stephen Kenny had his head held high after a hugely encouraging performance from Ireland against Portugal in the Aviva Stadium on Thursday night.
Kenny spoke to RTÉ after the game, in which Ireland took a spirited 0-0 draw and took the game to the Portuguese superstars in Lansdowne Road.
Stephen Kenny says Ireland were "disappointed not to win" Portugal tie
It was a night to remember at the Aviva Stadium, as a full house returned to the ground for the first time since 2019 for the visit of Portugal and their star-studded team. On a note when Cristiano Ronaldo and co. were expected to take centre stage, Ireland largely outplayed their opponents and nearly applied the winning touch on multiple occasions.
Portugal were reduced to ten men late on with the dismissal of Pepe, and Ireland had the Portuguese side on the ropes in the closing stages.
On another positive night for his Ireland team, Stephen Kenny thought that his men were unlucky not to take home the spoils once again.
We've played Portugal twice, we've played them in Portugal and in the 88th minute we were 1-0 up. Today we've drawn at home - and we're disappointed with that. The players are very disappointed. That shows you the sort of strides we've made in recent months.
I think the draw was important. We go to Luxembourg on Sunday and that draw means we can finish ahead of Luxembourg with a win, which we want to do.
We started nervously, they were good early on in terms of possession. Last 20 minutes of the first half I thought we really caused them problems with a lot of corner kicks. Chiedozie was causing a lot of problems with his pace.
I thought we were the better team overall in the second-half. I thought we controlled a lot of it - with 11. I thought we played very well in that period. They're always a threat - so much quality, as we've seen with the chance they've had.
It could so easily have been three points on the night for Ireland, after Matt Doherty put the ball in the Portuguese net late on, before seeing the goal disallowed for a foul in the build up.
Stephen Kenny says clear goal was disallowed in injury-time.
Says players are disappointed with result and have made great progress.
Aim now is win in Luxembourg to finish 3rd
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Just like man-of-the-match performer Callum Robinson, Kenny took issue with the referee's decision, saying he could not understand how a foul had been given after a "clear goal". Kenny was not happy with the referee's performance overall, but praised his players for keeping their heads.
It's clearly not a foul. Will Keane stands his ground, the goalkeeper is the proactive one, he's actually doing any barging that's been done. It's a clear goal that's been disallowed and it's very disappointing that it's not been given because it looked like a clear goal.
We couldn't get a decision for the first-half at all, nothing seemed to go our way. The players kept their composure, we didn't get any key players booked who had yellow cards for the game on Sunday, which was important.
Above all, Stephen Kenny praised his players' maturity, and his closing remark that Ireland were "disappointed not to win" shows how far they have come from the days of struggling to score in games on end.
The Stephen Kenny philosophy is taking hold, and the night when Portugal were rattled at the Aviva may be remembered in future as the night it truly arrived.