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Republic of Ireland striker Adam Idah

Republic of Ireland striker Adam Idah

SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland striker Adam Idah

As if we needed more reasons to be miserable in these grim times, a depressing statistic was thrown up this week as Ireland prepare to play under Stephen Kenny for the first time.

In qualification for Euro 2020 Finland - that's little old Finland who had never qualified for anything - had one player, Teemu Pukki, who on his own scored more goals in the group than the entire Republic of Ireland squad.

No pressure, then, on the forwards who will take on the burden of ending that famine in games away to Bulgaria (Thursday) and at home to Finland (Sunday).

The senior team has had many faults and committed many sins over the last number of years but that miserly strike rate in front of goal is the most worrying and one of the things that Kenny needs to fix.

Hence the introduction of fresh blood up front like Adam Idah, who played (and played well - and scored) for Kenny at Under-21 level, as did Aaron Connolly.

"For me, I'm just going to play the way I always do. Obviously Stephen with the U-21s just gave us that confidence to be ourselves and gave us that bit of freedom to play. We just have to come and try to be confident," Idah said before the squad's departure to Sofia today, aware of the pressure that is now on.

"I think every footballer has a small bit of pressure on their shoulders. For me and the younger boys, we are all fairly confident in our own ability.

"This is what we have been waiting for; this is what we have worked all those years for and I think all of us are raring to go, can't wait to get started. I think everyone just have to come together and be united as a team again.

"We've worked a lot in training and Stephen said we'll work together as a team. He's going to try to bring a new era into this Irish team. That's what everyone is looking forward to. The first game is on Thursday. We'll just go out and hopefully get the job done.

"We are all confident in our own ability and we are all delighted to be in the team and to be playing together. We have worked together all those years, from U-16s up until now so I think everyone is just looking forward to getting going now and playing with each other."

Even though he has graduated from the U-21s and is in what some would call "senior hurling" now, he says the message from Kenny has not changed.

"He was the exact same. Told us the same stuff: play with confidence, gave us the freedom to go and play our roles. All the boys are delighted to have him in. He was a great manager with the U-21s so I can't wait to get started," added Idah.

He may clash swords with his fellow Norwich City player Pukki on Sunday, the Corkman a big admirer of the Finnish finisher. "Teemu is a great professional," he says.

"Obviously I played with him throughout the whole season. Seeing him in training and even outside training, he's just the perfect athlete, to be honest.

"He scored a few goals for Finland last year to get them into the Euros. He's a great striker and I can look up to players like Teemu and try to use his athleticism and professionalism in my career. He's a great role model for me."