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Kenny's premier vision in focus

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Shane Long will hope to improve his standing in a Ireland squad under Stephen Kenny. Pic: Getty

Shane Long will hope to improve his standing in a Ireland squad under Stephen Kenny. Pic: Getty

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Shane Long will hope to improve his standing in a Ireland squad under Stephen Kenny. Pic: Getty

The times we are living through are set to prevent Stephen Kenny from taking his place in the stands when Project Restart gets under way.

Yet this is still a significant week for the 48-year-old, for he will be watching Premier League matches as a senior international manager, with every involvement for an Irish footballer affecting his brief.

He won't be mingling in directors' boxes with Gareth Southgate, Ryan Giggs, Didier Deschamps or any of the other national team bosses that you might encounter on the circuit.

To be fair, across the past decade, the FAI's man in charge has tended to spend more time in Championship grounds rather than watching title deciders.

Kenny has already done a fair bit of that in his role as U-21 boss and he will have plenty of reasons to track developments in the second tier when that resumes later in the week.

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The new manager rates Robbie Brady. Photo: Getty Images

The new manager rates Robbie Brady. Photo: Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

The new manager rates Robbie Brady. Photo: Getty Images

But it has been an encouraging campaign for Irishmen in the top flight, and there are stories that will have a meaningful impact on the former Dundalk supremo's thinking as he begins the countdown towards September.

Brady's struggle

Robbie Brady did not especially enjoy Mick McCarthy's tenure.

Granted, the manager had a fair excuse for excluding the Burnley winger from his plans because he wasn't featuring at club level following his return from an injury lay-off.

Still, it was a blow for the hero of Lille to find himself out of the squad picture completely in the autumn before a November comeback.

Stephen Kenny rates Brady and it's anticipated that he will have a big part to play when the new management team start making decisions.

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Troy Parrott aims to impresss the former U-21 boss by earning more gametime. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Troy Parrott aims to impresss the former U-21 boss by earning more gametime. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Troy Parrott aims to impresss the former U-21 boss by earning more gametime. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

His creativity will be utilised, possibly even in a central role, although Kenny also likes wingers that can cut inside and give an extra option in midfield.

The problem is that Brady's career has stalled at Burnley where he is stuck behind their main asset, Dwight McNeil. Sean Dyche wants the Dubliner to stay and that's why they exercised an option in his deal that keeps him at Turf Moor for another year.

With Burnley heading for a safe mid-table finish, the best-case scenario for Kenny in the short term is that Brady gets some game-time in a crowded schedule to build his base level fitness with September in mind.

And it might even remind clubs that he would likely be available for a fee if they made a good offer.

Long's revival

If Brady was cool on McCarthy, then Shane Long was certainly closer to freezer than fridge when he found himself left out of squads completely.

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Republic of Ireland head coach Stephen Kenny. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland head coach Stephen Kenny. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland head coach Stephen Kenny. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Yes, there were injuries that prevented the Southampton player from figuring when the campaign was gathering pace and then the manager chose to stay loyal to those squad members that had served him well.

Scott Hogan and James Collins were firmly ahead of the Tipp native when the race for automatic qualification was reaching the business end. Long will be ahead of them in the queue now, with a strong spell with Southampton resulting in a two-year contract offer.

Kenny likes a number nine with a good work-rate that can run the channels and provide his side with an attacking outlet with pace.

That's why there is such excitement about the development of Norwich's Adam Idah, who could enter the senior picture in 2020 should he gain more experience.

In a strange way, relegation for Norwich might actually accelerate the ascension of the teenager. But, in the meantime, Long is poised for an Irish recall.

Hendrick's dilemma

The reaction to the accurate story that AC Milan were eyeing up a move for Hendrick says a lot about how the Dubliner is perceived in his homeland.

And he's very much aware of that too. As a first team regular at Premier League level, he will have plenty of options to choose from if he opts against staying at Turf Moor.

In some respects, Hendrick is a victim of his own success from Euro 2016 because it raised the bar for what was demanded of him in a green jersey.

Within the Irish dressing-room, Hendrick is held in high regard and successive Irish bosses have always picked the St Kevin's Boys product because he is clearly one of the most capable members of the group and ticks a lot of boxes in terms of size and athleticism.

But there's no escaping that his Irish displays over the past four years have been underwhelming.

There is a feeling that his deployment in different midfield positions and the lack of clear direction under O'Neill, who trusted midfielders to act off the cuff when Hendrick was accustomed to a clear game-plan, didn't help him.

Yet under McCarthy, there were also days when the Premier League regular struggled to really embrace senior responsibility.

Kenny is an admirer of Hendrick and they have a mutual connection in the form of the player's agent, Eamon McLoughlin, who also represents the Irish manager.

You can expect Hendrick to be encouraged to attack from deep when Kenny takes over, rather than operating as a de facto number ten with a ball going over his head. THE EUROPEAN CONTENDERS Throughout his career, Kenny has never shied away from bold statements in the press to highlight his belief in individuals and perhaps give them a bit of a confidence booster too.

So there was a hint of a prepared line about his assertion that the back four against Denmark last November - Enda Stevens, John Egan, Shane Duffy and Matt Doherty - were in the top ten in Europe.

But is it really that outlandish a statement?

Duffy has endured a testing year, but if an international opponent had a trio performing as well as the others, then we would speak in hushed tones about them. Stevens and Egan are starring for a Sheffield United side that remains in contention for a Champions League place given that Manchester City's strife has opened the door for fifth spot.

They are on the same points as Wolves with an additional game played, but it's possibly more plausible that Matt Doherty's side will last the course and push Manchester United. Either way, there will be an Irish angle to the European race.

In truth, what the manager really needs is for these players to avoid injury as Egan's comfort on the ball as a centre-half and the overlapping strengths of Stevens and Doherty mark them out as a perfect fit for his strategy, although the caveat is that they are shining for clubs who deploy a back three whereas Kenny is a back-four man. Figuring out how to accommodate Doherty and Seamus Coleman is a challenge he has inherited, but he won't allow Doherty's talents to be wasted.

The McCarthy question

This is about James as opposed to Mick. The Glaswegian emerged from a dark period in his career to get a run of matches with Crystal Palace before the stoppage, although the club's supporters seemed to have mixed views about his effectiveness.

Whatever about the perception of his performances, the 29-year-old needed to show he could get through a busy schedule unscathed and his reticence about coming into international squads last year was tied in with that.

McCarthy was breaking through in Scotland when Kenny was at Dunfermline, and his attributes would appeal to the new gaffer.

If he can prove his fitness through the congested sprint of fixtures that lies ahead, then he surely comes back into the Irish reckoning but there's clearly a discussion that would have to be take place first.

The next generation

There is a widespread assumption that because Kenny is coming from the U-21 set-up, he will suddenly starting picking a raft of U-21 players and clear out the established squad members.

Don't bank on it. As a club boss, Kenny selected the best available and he will pick players that suit his style and strengthen areas where there is weakness as opposed to just selecting youngsters for the sake of it. In other words, Kenny's kids will need to be showing signs of progress in their club career to warrant consideration.

With a crammed schedule and the option to use five subs, then maybe there will be more opportunities for Troy Parrott in the run-in but perhaps that will only occur if Spurs have nothing to play for. Jose Mourinho and staff are watching Parrott's personal development closely.

Aaron Connolly was going through a rocky patch at Brighton before the stoppage and his contract issues to resolve; maybe the break will have focused minds.

Southampton duo Michael Obafemi and Will Smallbone should continue to feature with their club a few wins away from safety. As mentioned earlier, Idah's position may be enhanced in the short term if Norwich run out of road.

And this is illustrative of how factors completely outside Kenny's control may alter his thinking. For example, how will the Premier League run-in affect Jayson Molumby's standing?

He's learning the trade on loan at Millwall, but the success or failure of Brighton's battle with the drop may impact the Waterford man.

If the summer transfer market is depressed and curtailed, then it should help promising youngsters, but nothing is guaranteed. This is the reality for Kenny in his new normal.