Tuesday 18 June 2019

Kenny: I've got an advantage over previous U-21 managers, which I intend to maximise

Big plans: Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Big plans: Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Stephen Kenny and the newly-appointed Ireland U-21 manager has wasted little time in attempting to force the FAI into action.

Speaking at the Philips manager of the year awards, Kenny revealed that he had asked the FAI to request a late entry for the Toulon Tournament next summer.

Ireland last played in Toulon back in 2002 and Kenny wants to see his Ireland side entered in the tournament with a view to enhancing their chances of qualifying for European Championships in 2021.

"By taking the game (qualifier) in March, it means I have to accelerate that work quicker," Kenny explained.

"We could have opted not to start until next September. But what I'm hoping to do is go to Toulon in June.

"I've asked the FAI to try and get us into that tournament. We are trying to get in at the moment. It's late in the day.

"We have never qualified for the (U-21) European Championships, so getting into the Toulon Tournament against the top teams, players are getting tournament football and it's a great barometer for where you are.

"So I want to be in that, we might not. We'll see how it goes. It's 14 days and four matches minimum. So we are looking at that in June. That's a priority for me.

"So the way I see it, game in March, a tournament, if get into that, in June, and that will prepare the players for six games - two in September, two in October, two in November. They are great games."

Having been handed a tough qualifying draw that includes Italy, Sweden, Iceland, Armenia and Luxembourg, Kenny was realistic about his U-21 side's chances of making it to Hungary and Slovenia. The former Dundalk boss did however stress that he felt he had a major advantage of his predecessors in the sense that he will get almost two years to work with the young players, who he hopes will be future senior internationals at which point Kenny will have taken over from Mick McCarthy.

"Coming in, one thing that I stress to all the players in all the age groups is the importance of playing for your country and never missing that opportunity, never ever miss that opportunity and never ever treat it lightly - I can't stress that highly enough.

"I am in a position as someone who will become senior manager to stress that even more so. I've got an advantage over previous U-21 managers and I intend to maximise that advantage and stress to every player, don't ever consider for any age group not turning up and don't ever consider not applying yourself and dedicating yourself 100pc.

"We've seen a lot of talented players going by the wayside, we want our best players to be nurtured and fulfil their potential.

"I'm in an advantageous position of that's the way I see it. Anyone coming into the U-21 team can see, not only am I in control of their immediate destiny but also their future and that's the way I view it.

"I don't have players playing regularly in the Champions League so I don't see that as an issue.

"The pinnacle is playing for Ireland, is playing for your country, and that should always remain the case."

Irish Independent

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