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Kenny will adapt to empty stadia

Boss prepares for September as FAI get €462k FIFA boost

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Stephen Kenny believes he’ll be ready to cope with games behind closed doors. Photo: Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny believes he’ll be ready to cope with games behind closed doors. Photo: Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny believes he’ll be ready to cope with games behind closed doors. Photo: Sportsfile

New Ireland manager Stephen Kenny says he'll cope with the challenge of having to play international matches behind closed doors if Covid-19 restrictions have not been fully lifted by the time his team takes to the field.

As his employers in the FAI welcomed the news that they, like all national associations, would get a Covid-19 related grant of €462,000, to help those federations deal with the financial impact of the pandemic, Kenny is preparing for action.

He expects to have a double header in September in the Nations League, away to Bulgaria and at home to Finland, as his first tests with the senior team, with a proposed October date for the Euro 2020 playoff away to Slovakia and then a potential playoff final in November.

The Slovakia tie was due to be played in March and was at one stage listed to be played behind closed doors, before that game and all other international fixtures were called off due to the pandemic.

Earlier this week, FAI CEO Gary Owens said it was vital to the association's financial health that home internationals could be played in the autumn with the usual attendance, though the FAI, like all sporting bodies, are unsure when matches can be played at all, let alone in front of a normal-sized crowd.

Speaking on a Facebook event for Down Syndrome Ireland, Kenny said he was keen for his side to have the crowd behind them for the Finland tie but would be ready for alternatives.

"No one wants to play in empty stadiums, no one wants to play behind closed doors," Kenny said.

"If that happens, you have to deal with it, you have to adapt.

"In life you do have to adapt.

"You can only play in the international windows. If that happens and we have to play behind closed doors, you have to meet that challenge head on and prepare accordingly."

Kenny's focus will be on the Euro 2020 play-off but his contract runs until the end of the 2022 World Cup campaign and he's looking at a return to the World Cup stage for the side.

"It's our ambition to get to Qatar in 2022," Kenny said.

"We've not been in the World Cup in 20 years which is too long. That has to be the objective to try and get there and do everything.

"We have to absolutely exhaust every avenue really and try to do everything we can to to qualify for major tournaments.

"We must have that ambition to do that and I think that's the way I would see it.

"Once we get there - we have to get there first before we can dream about winning the tournament - but it's step by step, you can never rule out any possibility."

Kenny also said he was keen to use some of what he inherited from Mick McCarthy as well as the pitch at Lansdowne Road to his advantage.

"I want to use the full width of the pitch, make the pitch as big as possible," he said.

"We want creative players to really excel, while keeping the strong fundamentals that are there, because our defence has been exceptional, the team has defended really well consistently, that gives us a platform and we want to really show the level of creativity that we are capable of."

Kenny has confirmed the retention of Seamus Coleman as captain and while travel restrictions due to Covid-19 mean he's been unable to meet players face to face, he's using technology for now.

"Séamus is a great player, having come from Killybegs to play for Sligo Rovers, I used to manage Derry City against him when he was at Sligo Rovers and he has gone on to have an incredible career at Everton," Kenny added.

"I will be in contact with all of the players through Microsoft Teams, we will be in contact in the next week, speaking to players individually, all the players who have been in the last couple of squads and we will be discussing various things but it's difficult as you can't meet anyone and that makes it difficult but hopefully things improve."

Kenny also suggested that home-based players would need to do well in Europe to make his squad.

"Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers have reached a very good standard and we want the other teams to try and get to that level, they have the best resources, you see Bohemians doing very well last year to finish third and Derry coming behind them in fourth," he said.

"We need to lift teams up and results in Europe are important.

"It's hard to keep your best players, when I was managing Dundalk every year we lost our best players and that's difficult.

"We will pick the best players for Ireland no matter where they are playing."