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Stephen Kenny asks for perspective on his Ireland era after draw with Belgium

It was another encouraging performance from Ireland, in the first match played since Kenny signed a contract to continue in his role.
Ireland manager Stephen Kenny celebrates Alan Browne's equaliser against Belgium. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny celebrates Alan Browne's equaliser against Belgium. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Kevin Palmer

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny claimed criticism of his first year as Ireland boss was unjustified, as his improving side offered up more rays of hope in a thrilling 2-2 draw against Belgium at the Aviva Stadium.

Substitute Alan Browne gave Ireland a deserved draw against the side sitting at No.1 in the FIFA rankings, with Chiedozie Ogbene catching the eye as he scored Ireland's first goal and set up the second for Browne.

It was another encouraging performance from Ireland, in the first match played since Kenny signed a contract to continue in his role.

And a year after his darkest moment in the job came with a defeat against Luxembourg, he opted to seize the moment to re-write the narrative.

"Let's put some perspective on this," he said, speaking to Sky Sports. "When I took over, we played a play-off against Slovakia and we were outstanding out there, dominating possession before losing on penalties.

"For the next two camp, we were minus ten players on both occasions for Covid related reasons, so that is tough to carry.

"Now we have put 15 players in the squad over the last year that have come through our own system in Ireland, that we have nourished and coaches, all of a sudden we have a squad and competition for places.

"We need to improve again, but we have shown against Portugal and Serbia here, as well as in this game against Belgium, we have shown that we have quality and a togetherness.

"Now we need to step up against Lithuania (on Tuesday night)."

Kenny went on to suggest his players are now adopting the brand of pressing football he has been promoting since he took over as Ireland boss in 2020.

"It was an intriguing game, the players did brilliantly overall," he added.

"We are disappointed with the goals we conceded but to play the number one team and have the character to come back twice, and we had one cleared off the line, so overall it was a really good tactical game.

"Our pressing was relentless and forced a lot of mistakes and we were composed in possession. We have to look to continue to improve and that was a good performance."

A much-changed Belgium side were rattled by Ireland's high energy approach, with their coach Roberto Martinez full of praise for the Ireland fans.

"It was a very meaningiful friendly. It was exactly what we wanted," stated Martinez.

"We selected a squad under 50 caps so they have never been in that situation - I enjoyed the personality and characters we brought in. We allowed Ireland to put us under a little bit of difficulties in our box but the second half was good.

"You have to give credit to this Irish team, playing at home with an incredible crowd.

"You are never satisfied if you don't win, but in the same way we are realistic - we came here with a new side and it was a good opportunity to work towards what these players can bring to the squad in the World Cup."


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