Stephen Kenny has promised that his Ireland U-21s won’t compromise their attacking principles against Italy in tomorrow’s crucial Euro qualifier (live, eir Sport 1, 8.05), writes John Fallon.
While the Italians have won the title five times and Ireland have never qualified, Kenny’s side have raced to the summit of the group with a maximum nine points.
They have won the three games with swagger and style, traits the sold-out crowd at Tallaght Stadium will expect to continue tomorrow.
Despite Italy possessing an attack of Premier League pair Moise Kean and Patrick Cutrone, Kenny has no fear of an inferiority complex.
“I wouldn’t accept a point now if it was offered to me,” Kenny asserted.
“Why wouldn’t we be confident? We’ve got really good midfield players and forwards who can score goals. Italy are strong but we’ve got a lot of attributes and we mustn’t diminish that.
“We must back ourselves. These young players have captured the imagination of the Irish football public. We should never take that for granted. This is a new generation of players.
“They want to make their mark, have great pride in playing for their country and are eager to do well. Who is to say we won’t?”
Kenny’s confidence levels aren’t affected by the loss of Aaron Connolly over the weekend. He knew what to expect once the winger earned his first Premier League start for Brighton and Hove Albion against Tottenham.
“Then he went and scored two goals – how dare he!” quipped Kenny.
“Mick (McCarthy) gave me a call later to say Aaron was going with the seniors. Look, I’m delighted for him because it’s progression.
“I’m not just saying that. As much as we want to achieve at U-21 level, the ultimate ambition for players is to represent their country at senior level. That’s our common goal in the FAI.”