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Kenny happy Slovak game won't be first


CLARITY: Stephen Kenny. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

CLARITY: Stephen Kenny. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

CLARITY: Stephen Kenny. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile


Stephen Kenny has expressed his satisfaction with confirmation that October's crunch Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Slovakia will be his third game in charge of Ireland and not his first.

The new Ireland boss will get to use September's UEFA Nations League double-header with Bulgaria and Finland to spend time with the players ahead of the Bratislava shootout on Thursday October 8.

UEFA's Executive Committee decided on new dates for the 2020 club and international calendar at their meeting in Switzerland yesterday.

The Slovakia game has been added to the start of the October international window.

And the winners of that game will take on either Bosnia Herzegovina or Northern Ireland a month later on Thursday November 12.

UEFA will consult with the local authorities in each country to determine if the fixtures will be behind-closed-doors affairs.

"I am pleased that we will get two competitive games in September to help us in our preparations before Slovakia," said Kenny. "These UEFA Nations League games are (also) very important games in terms of World Cup rankings and potential play-off."

The calendar for the rest of the year was agreed by UEFA's Executive Committee, where it was also confirmed that the League of Ireland's four European contenders face one-off ties when their campaign kicks off in mid-August.

UEFA also announced that all 12 host cities have retained their status for the European Championships which was pushed back due to the Covid-19 crisis. The dates for the 2021 games are identical to the 2020 version, which is relevant for those ticket holders for the fixtures in Dublin.

The Bratislava game would be in the same window as a home game with Wales and a trip to take on the Finns. If Ireland can get past Slovakia, they would travel to face the winner of the Bosnia and Northern Ireland encounter to kick off the November gathering.

The League of Ireland's European quartet will now all get a chance to play. The first three qualifying rounds in the Champions League and Europa League will be one-legged affairs, with the draw determining home advantage. Those ties are scheduled for the week commencing August 17.

Dundalk enter the Champions League, with Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians in the Europa League.

The goalposts have moved for the Ireland U21 side. They are top of their Euros qualifying group but second-placed Italy have two games in hand.

The original plan was that the group winners and best runner-up would make the finals, with the other second-placed sides playing off.

UEFA have now decided to split the finals competition into two periods in 2021, which will have implications for new boss Jim Crawford. Now, the nine group winners and the five best runners-up will go into a 16-team first phase (four groups of four) in Slovenia in March 2021 along with the host nations.