Tuesday 17 September 2019

'There has been no discussions about my backroom team' - Stephen Kenny coy on Robbie Keane contract

Stephen Kenny in relaxed mood at yesterday’s U-21 squad announcement. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Stephen Kenny in relaxed mood at yesterday’s U-21 squad announcement. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland U-21 boss Stephen Kenny says that the make-up of his backroom staff when he takes over from Mick McCarthy is an issue for further down the line.

The subject became a talking point in June when Ireland assistant Robbie Keane indicated that he had a contract with the FAI that would take him into the 2022 World Cup tilt.

Kenny takes over from McCarthy when Ireland's participation in Euro 2020 concludes.

And the Irish Independent understands that the ex-Dundalk boss was told he would have control over the identity of his support staff.

He was reluctant to get drawn into the topic when Keane's situation was raised at the announcement of his panel for the Euro U-21 double-header with Armenia and Sweden.

"To be honest with you, there has been no discussions about my backroom team," said Kenny.

"This is about the U-21 team trying to do well, at the moment. The senior team are trying to do their utmost to qualify for the Euros and we're all very supportive of that."

Kenny did speak with McCarthy before finalising his squad, specifically with regard to Troy Parrott, Nathan Collins and Michael Obafemi.

The talented trio were named in McCarthy's initial 40-man provisional panel for the Euro 2020 showdown with Switzerland and the friendly with Bulgaria.

However, the senior boss had indicated that the youths were unlikely to be considered for a debut in the Swiss encounter - and would go with Kenny's group if they weren't in his plans.

Ireland's trimmed-down, 23-man panel for the senior matches will be confirmed this morning.

"I spoke to Mick," said Kenny. "They are available for U-21 selection and also on standby for the senior international team."

It's possible that McCarthy could look to experiment in the Bulgaria fixture - which clashes with the away day in Sweden - but that bridge will be crossed if it comes to it.

Kenny is thrilled by the profile of the players at his disposal, and went with a new approach by breaking up his midfielders into 'centre midfielders' and 'attacking midfielders' on the official release.

But it's the front men who dominated discussion, with a serious buzz about five forwards aged 19 and under.

Obafemi and Parrott have yet to feature under Kenny due to injury.

Toulon stars Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were picked by Brighton and Norwich respectively for EFL Cup dates on Tuesday, with Connolly getting on the scoresheet.

Celtic recruit Jonathan Afolabi completes the quintet after starring for Tom Mohan's U-19 side.

Parrott (17) is the youngest but has generated the most hype. He suffered an injury scare on Tottenham U-23 duty last week but is expected to be fine.

"The fact that Tottenham have him training with the first team all the time speaks brilliantly for his talent," said Kenny.

"It would be great for the Irish public to see him as well and all of the other attacking players.

"We've got five strikers there who are all different and versatile. I don't want to talk these players up as they are very young, but it's exciting.

"You could easily get four of them into the team in different positions."

Irish Independent

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