Stephen Kenny needs tyros nearer to motion in World Cup salvage bid

Football didn’t quite come home for England, but Ireland manager Stephen Kenny plans to bring Ireland’s homeland closer to his players for World Cup qualifiers in September.

All four of Kenny’s games as Ireland manager at Aviva Stadium were played without fans, a situation they fortunately got behind them when Azerbaijan and Serbia visit the venue four days apart.

Given the youthful approach Kenny has taken since his appointment 15 months ago, he is well aware of the familiarity factor.

Over the past decade, Irish managers have decided against using the time slot offered to train in the stadium on the eve of matches. Instead, they were in the suburbs, either Malahide or Castleknock, before commuting to Dublin 4 on game day.

When Ireland returns from their first appearance in Faro against Portugal on September 1st, the shadow of the national stadium will greet their players and staff daily from their new hotel nearby.

It ensures that a tradition – an imitation of the rugby team’s captaincy run – is restored.

“We’re taking a different approach to this camp,” said Kenny.

“I am aware that many of our young players have not played at Aviva that often.


They have never played for a home team and they dream of it when they play for Ireland.

“It’s okay if a gamer has 50 or 60 caps, but not if you can find out. The distance between the stadium and the hotel was the main reason the teams didn’t train there.

“So this time we’re staying very close to the stadium and training in the stadium the day before both games. It will be a bit more like your home. “

Darren Randolph’s home until 2020 was between the sticks for Ireland, but that is no longer a given. His injury problems, coupled with Gavin Bazunu’s progress, have resulted in a changing of the guard.

Teenager Bazunu has started the last four games with Caoimhín Kelleher last made his debut during the break against Hungary.

Mark Travers is also in the race despite his mistakes in Serbia after taking pole position at Bournemouth after Asmir Begović’s departure to Everton.

Although Randolph has returned to the West Ham squad for pre-season, Bazunu is on loan to Portsmouth from Manchester City on a rather regular basis.

“Darren didn’t feel fit enough to come to camp in June after a tough season,” said Kenny.

“Since I got in, while Darren has played a few games and certainly hasn’t let us down, he just hasn’t been able to kick the ball properly. To a length that it would have had before.

“You think about Darren kicking the ball 70 meters so that Shane Long can cross the finish line against Germany (in 2015). He doesn’t have the capacity.

“He tried to take risks instead of long kicks because he wasn’t comfortable hitting balls that were being passed back to him. We have to see how Darren is, if he can nail a place at West Ham. “

Urged on whether Bazunu has to lose the No. 1 jersey, the manager replied: “I can’t definitely say that at this point.

“Gavin has done exceptionally well, better than we’d hoped. Don’t forget that in his first game against Luxembourg and Qatar, he was never in the squad.

“There was a kind of saying, couldn’t he have played against Serbia, for example? But he had never met the boys before and we were there and the game was the next day and Mark Travers had been in the squad for two years and had two full internationals under his belt. “

Of all of his selection puzzles, the priority is to find a goalscorer to heal Ireland’s miserable record in the competitive arena for the past few years. West Ham United’s Mipo Odubeko won’t be the immediate answer as he parks his international future amid the interest of England and Nigeria.

“I spoke to his agent, who appears to be quite influential in the process,” said Kenny. “You take some time, concentrate on your club career and don’t make any international decisions yet.

“Our U21 manager Jim Crawford used to take Mipo to training with the St Joseph’s Boys and knows him so well. They will consider it all along the line. “

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