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joys in green Stephen Kenny eager to draw on home comforts ahead of Ireland’s autumn tests at the Aviva


Stephen Kenny speaking to kids taking part in the INTERSPORT Elverys Summer Soccer Schools at Templeogue United FC in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny speaking to kids taking part in the INTERSPORT Elverys Summer Soccer Schools at Templeogue United FC in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny speaking to kids taking part in the INTERSPORT Elverys Summer Soccer Schools at Templeogue United FC in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny’s Ireland squad are moving base for September’s international window in a bid to make the Aviva Stadium feel more like home.

The Irish boss is changing arrangements for the triple header with Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia in order to maximise the limited preparation time available between fixtures.

Ireland play Portugal away on September 1 before returning for Dublin matches with Azerbaijan and Serbia on September 4 and September 7 respectively.

The group will fly straight to Portugal three days before the Algarve showdown and fly back afterwards to stay in the city centre as opposed to their regular HQ in Castleknock in order to tie in with a plan to train in the Aviva.

In recent years, Ireland squads have conducted all of their pre-match preparations for home games in Abbotstown with only a handful of exceptions but Kenny is determined to change that, especially with the age profile of his group.

“We have adopted a different approach to this camp as well. I am conscious that a lot of our young players have not played at the Aviva that much. We have never had a policy traditionally of training in the Aviva the day before so we are going to do that,” says Kenny.

“When we come back on the Thursday [September 2] we are going to train in the Aviva on Friday, and stay very close to the stadium this time, and train the day before both matches in the stadium so it becomes your home a bit more.

“Traditionally teams have not done that. The distance from the hotel has been the main reason.”

“It is alright if you’ve got 50 or 60 caps, probably it is nothing, but if you are still finding out about it. It is something that we want to do ahead of the games.

“A lot of the players that we brought through have not played in front of a home support, and that’s what they dream of doing, they dream of playing in front of an Aviva with fans.

“I’ve been in charge of four games at the Aviva in front of empty stands. But it is the same for other teams, I am not using that as an excuse. I am just saying, that was it.

“I don’t know how many we will have (at the Aviva). 6,000 Bohs fans made it seem like more than 6,000 last week. I am sure a passionate Irish support will get behind the team and see that it is evolving now.”

The Ireland manager said he wasn’t able to shed any light on the club futures of Robbie Brady and James McCarthy who are both free agents at the moment. He said Irish medical staff have been working with Brady since his exit from Burnley.

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He welcomed Gavin Bazunu’s move to Portsmouth on loan and was coy on the standing of Darren Randolph with the emergence of Bazunu and Caoimhin Kelleher. Kenny explained how hip and thigh problems have troubled the West Ham goalkeeper.

“Darren didn’t feel fit enough to come into camp in June. He had a tough season,” said Kenny, speaking at a visit to the Intersport Elverys FAI Summer Soccer Schools at Templeogue United.

“To be honest, since I’ve come in, even though he’s played a number of matches and certainly hasn’t let us down, he just hasn’t been able to kick the ball properly. To a length that he would have previously.

“You think about Darren kicking the ball 70 yards for Shane Long to finish against Germany. He hasn’t had the capacity do that.”

Kenny did address the uncertainty around the Irish future of Randolph’s club-mate Mipo Odubeko, the Tallaght raised front man who recently turned down an U-21 call and is considering his international options.

“I spoke to his agent who seems quite influential in the proceedings and they said they were going to take some time to find out, and just concentrate on the club career and not make any international decisions yet,” said Kenny, who stressed that Odubeko’s representatives were not looking for a senior call as part of any discussions.

The player was unhappy to be left out of the Ireland U-17 European Championships squad in 2019 but Kenny said he did subsequently accept a call up at U-18 level and initially welcomed a nod from U-21 boss Jim Crawford in March.

“Jim wanted to call him up and he seemed happy to come up but there was a change of plan,” continued Kenny.

“Jim used to give Mipo a lift to training at St Joseph’s Boys. Jim’s son played for St Joseph’s, on the same team as Mipo’s brother, so every week Jim would bring Mipo out to Joeys for a couple of years. So he knows him that well. That’s where it is at the moment. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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