Friday 22 March 2019

Kenny's all-Ireland Dundalk side on a European mission

Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Kenny, who can recall defender Brian Gartland after a wrist injury. Photo: Sportsfile

Celtic famously won the European Cup with a team of players who all came from within a 30-mile distance of the club's Parkhead home.

Stephen Kenny, however, is proud of the far-spread roots of the Dundalk side which does battle with Legia Warsaw tonight. Flying the flag for Ireland, playing for the country, are not just clichés for the Dubliner. The backgrounds of his players in Munster (Barrett), Connacht (Horgan, O'Donnell, Mountney), Ulster (McEleney) and the large chunk of boys from Dublin and Leinster making this national affair, with the DDSL roots of true-blue Dubs like Andy Boyle and David McMillan not forgotten.

"It's not just the League of Ireland, it's grassroots football all throughout Ireland which connected with the performance with BATE," Kenny says.

"There's buses coming from different villages. We've players from Waterford, Galway, Mayo, Meath, Dublin, Derry, right throughout the country, the four provinces are all represented by our team, and I think people at grassroots level connected with the manner of the performance and not just the victory itself. There is a lot of goodwill towards that. Those various players have come up through the various schoolboy leagues, throughout the country. Some went to England at a young age, some went different routes, so there is that connection there."

Kenny, who can recall defender Brian Gartland after a wrist injury kept him out of the games against BATE, is also aware that this tie is a chance for the little guy in European football to stand up to those who want fewer, or zero, clubs from countries like Ireland in the Champions League.

He added: "Some people who are involved in that wouldn't be interested in the broad spectrum of football or the game itself or how it grows; it becomes about finance. So I think the champions of each country should have the opportunity to try and compete, to be the best they can be and to go as far as they can in the Champions League."

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