Kenny takes care to spend attacking riches wisely

Such are the riches of talent constantly emerging, Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny admits he’s finding it difficult to settle on his preferred starting team.

Kenny takes care to spend attacking riches wisely

Such are the riches of talent constantly emerging, Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny admits he’s finding it difficult to settle on his preferred starting team.

It means some debutants, especially Bournemouth star Gavin Kilkenny, are likely to appear in tonight’s second qualifier of the 2021 Euro campaign against Armenia.

Kenny admits the length of time between his first competitive match in March, when they beat Luxembourg, militates against momentum being generated but the benefits of a fruitful trip to Toulon for a friendly tournament in June can’t be discounted.

Still, to have any chance of competing with the seeded teams above them, Italy and Sweden, victory is essential.

That objective is helped by the depth of striking options he possesses. As a manager who likes to play with one central striker, top scorer Adam Idah will probably have a couple of attack-minded wingers for support.

Aaron Connolly, fresh from making his Premier League debut for Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend, should feature on the left, with newcomer Jonathan Afolabi in contention for the other berth.

To illustrate the depth of options, Tottenham’s Troy Parrott is part of the squad for the first time. Reading first-teamer Josh Barrett didn’t make the final cut.

Whatever about outside factors, However, Kenny has faith in his own judgement, along with coaches Keith Andrews and Jim Crawford, to make up his own mind.

“The squad is evolving all the time,” said Kenny.

“Players excel with their clubs at different times. Jason Knight, for instance, has broken into Derby County’s first team and is the youngest member of our squad.

“It’s conundrums and dilemmas. Just because someone’s played four games and certain club managers have picked him, does that move him ahead of someone else who hasn’t got a chance? Well, it’s not a measurement table.

“I work on the basis of what I see things with my own eyes. How the team is going to grow and what the best balance is.

“I won’t let others decide what are team is.”

With playmaker Connor Ronan absent through injury, Kilkenny is vying for the No 10 vacancy.

Kilkenny claimed the man-of-the-match award for his goal scoring display in pre-season against Lyon.

Despite Cherries boss Eddie not offering him guarantees, he chose him as the only rookie from their ranks for the League Cup fixture with Forest Green last week.

“This is the first time Gavin has been in with us and he’s very much in contention to play,” said Kenny, due to succeed Mick McCarthy as senior manager next August.

“He played in central-midfield of a 4-4-2 in the League Cup, whereas he was always a very light winger.

That was a very experienced Bournemouth team he played in but he’s one of those lads that just doesn’t give the ball away. He doesn’t lose possession.

Armenia will have to be monitored with Kenny mindful the feelgood vibe around his early part of the spell could be torn asunder.

“Armenia are somewhat of an unknown quantity,” he added. “I don’t think they have a deep squad but their forward players are quick. They counter-attack at pace, have sharp passing and are technically good.”

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