Six games into his reign as Ireland U21 manager and Stephen Kenny believes his side are gearing up well to reach a first-ever major tournament.
Five of those matches have taken place in the past fortnight at the Toulon Tournament.
That they bowed out in the semi-finals to a Brazilian side, older and more experienced, carries no shame.
It was the fourth clean sheet of Kenny’s reign, one that is due to end around this time next year when he succeeds Mick McCarthy in the senior post. His objective is to depart the set-up for the final lap of the Euro 2021 qualifying campaign strongly positioned to reach the showpiece in Slovenia and Hungary.
Following the upcoming summer break, his panel assemble again September for a run of six qualifiers in the space of just 10 weeks. Kenny got the campaign up and running in March by overseeing a 3-0 victory over Luxembourg.
Next up on September 6 is the visit of Armenia to Tallaght, followed four days later with a trip to Sweden.
Kenny now knows the talent is available to him. Eight new players came into the Ireland side on Saturday from the team beaten 2-0 by Brazil three days earlier.
“I’m optimistic about the qualifying campaign,” said Kenny. “In Toulon, we beat China and Bahrain, drew twice with Mexico and lost 2-0 to an incredible Brazil team.
“Our team was much younger than the opposition.
“The performances in Toulon has proven our players have nothing to fear.
“It was good to give all 22 players an opportunity.
“A lot of them didn’t do their chances in the future any harm.”
In Saturday’s penalty shoot-out after a scoreless 90 minutes, Connor Ronan missed Ireland’s first spot-kick but keeper Conor Kearns saved an effort from Érick Aguirre, and Jack Taylor, Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah all converted for Ireland. However, Darragh Leahy’s miss from a restake, gave the Mexicans victory.
C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Manchester United), L Scales (West Brom), C Masterson (Unattached), T Wilson (Manchester City); J Lennon (St Patrick’s Athletic), C Carroll (Brentford); S Mallon (Sheffield United), J Knight (Derby County), J Taylor (Barnet); A Drinan (Waterford).
D Leahy (Bohemians) for Wilson, A Connolly (Brighton) for Mallon (both 58), C Kearns (UCD) for Kelleher (65 mins), C Ronan (Wolves) for Knight (75), A Idah (Norwich City) for Drinan (77).