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Ireland players are relishing prospect of playing ‘best team in the world’ France – Stephen Kenny


Stephen Kenny during a Republic of Ireland squad announcement at Aviva Stadium in Dublin

Stephen Kenny during a Republic of Ireland squad announcement at Aviva Stadium in Dublin

Stephen Kenny during a Republic of Ireland squad announcement at Aviva Stadium in Dublin

STEPHEN Kenny says he sees the Euro 2024 qualifier at home to France as an opportunity for his side to build on the work done under his reign and insists they will relish their underdog status.

Kenny today named a 26-man squad for a double header against Latvia and France and while Celtic man Mikey Johnston was the standout name in terms of new recruits, there was no place for veterans Robbie Brady and Conor Hourihane, while Swansea City man Ryan Manning also failed to make the cut.

Kenny says he included striker Adam Idah even though he suffered a foot injury while on duty for his club the previous night, and says he will await the result of scans before making a final decision but stressed that the Cork native had asked to be included for now.

"With Adam Idah it's too early to say, it's a foot injury, he left the ground on crutches, he will have a scan tomorrow. I am not sure, he asked not to be ruled out, we have to wait and see," Kenny said.

France will have played Holland in the Euro campaign by the time they come to Dublin and Kenny is aware of how strong they will be. "When we got the draw initially, we understood the magnitude of it, France, Holland, Greece and Gibraltar in the group. We understand the difficulty with that, but it also provides an opportunity and it's quite exciting to have France coming here," Kenny said.

“France have been the best team in the world over a period now because they won the World Cup in 2018 and then obviously lost recently on penalties to win consecutive World Cups.

"They've been a phenomenal team, so them coming here to Dublin, we view it as an opportunity also. We've been building our own team for the last couple of years for this campaign and we're excited by that.

“We understand that not many neutrals would give us a chance, really, against France because of their pedigree and because of what they've achieved, and we're fine with that. But we are capable of putting in a strong performance against anyone, really, we've shown that as well."

Kenny said Manning was unlucky to miss out out with Callum O'Dowda preferred for cover on the left but it was a hard call to omit veteran Brady.

"Robbie had a really good spell earlier in the season. I thought he was absolutely excellent for Preston earlier in the season. To be honest with you, I was full of admiration for how well he was playing," Kenny said.

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“In recent weeks, he's not been in the team – although he did play midweek – and we've been at a lot of Preston's games, we've got a lot of players, so these are the fine margins, you know."

He is eager to see how uncapped wide man Johnston - on loan from Celtic to Vitorioa Guimares - can do. "Mikey is someone I've obviously been aware of for a long time. He broke on the scene very quickly at Celtic and obviously played in four cup finals before he was 22 and so forth, but he had been out injured for a year and it was a tough one for him," Kenny added.

“With a young player, to lose your rhythm like that, it affects your career and he obviously saw a lot of players come in and by-pass him at Celtic then because they signed so many players while he was injured, so for him to go to Portugal was a brave step in a way.

“It's a tough league, a lot of good teams in it and they're challenging for a European place. It's not all upward curve for Mikey, it's a different culture. He's played 21 games this season between starts and off the bench.

“He has different characteristics that will add to the squad, I feel. We mustn't expect a major impact in this camp, but it's a good introduction for him."

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