Kenny defends calling up League of Ireland players

Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny has defended his decision to call-up League of Ireland players despite Stephen Bradley’s desire for them to be excluded.

Kenny defends calling up League of Ireland players

Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny has defended his decision to call-up League of Ireland players despite Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley’s desire for them to be excluded.

A raft of domestic matches over the next fortnight have been postponed due to the inclusion of players in Kenny’s squad for the Toulon Tournament.

Ireland will play at least four matches in France, starting with Monday’s opener against China.

Not all managers are embracing the elevation of home-based talent. Although UCD manager Collie O’Neill was pleased that two of his starlets received international recognition, Bradley was fuming at Friday’s game against Waterford being pulled.

He’s furious that the fixture pile-up could interfere with their title challenge and European campaign starting in July.

Hitting back at Bradley’s claim that only UK-players should have gone to France, Kenny was not for moving.

“I couldn’t agree with saying players from our league shouldn’t be picked for a prestigious tournament with a worldwide TV audience,” said the former Dundalk manager.

“I just don’t see any negative in players getting a massive opportunity to play against good international teams. It will be an amazing experience to face nations like China and Mexico preparing to play in next year’s Olympics.

I managed in the League of Ireland when we couldn’t get a game live on television. Self-esteem was non-existent.

“That has improved through runs in European competition and our players are in Ireland squads. Every big club in the UK will have a scout watching our players at these matches in France.”

Keith Andrews, the former Ireland international now on Kenny’s staff, is on the same wavelength.He said: “You can’t have it both ways. League of Ireland players didn’t get near the under-21 squad in recent years and now they’re getting call-ups.“Players are selected on merit and I know they see it as a privilege. It shows the good work going on at League of Ireland level.”

Neil Farrugia’s grade two hamstring strain has ruled out the UCD winger, opening the door for Reading attacker Josh Barrett to make the trip.

“We’ve chosen four wingers and three centre-forwards,” said Kenny. “We have three games in six days and we need energy in the wide positions.”

Ireland follow up their opener against the Chinese by meeting Mexico on Thursday week and completing the pool against Bahrain three days later.

Before that, they face Mick McCarthy’s squad in a behind-closed-doors friendly tomorrow.

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