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future on the line Stephen Kenny hopes for uneventful week to begin key month for Boys in Green

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Stephen Kenny, centre, launches the Peter McVerry Trust’s Christmas Fundraising Appeal with Pat Doyle, CEO, and Fr Peter McVerry with his dog, 'Tiny'. Photo: Shane O'Neill/Coalesce

Stephen Kenny, centre, launches the Peter McVerry Trust’s Christmas Fundraising Appeal with Pat Doyle, CEO, and Fr Peter McVerry with his dog, 'Tiny'. Photo: Shane O'Neill/Coalesce

Stephen Kenny, centre, launches the Peter McVerry Trust’s Christmas Fundraising Appeal with Pat Doyle, CEO, and Fr Peter McVerry with his dog, 'Tiny'. Photo: Shane O'Neill/Coalesce

The photo op for PR purposes is part of the gig for an Ireland manager but there is substance to Stephen Kenny’s interest in the work of the Peter McVerry Trust.

At the launch of the housing and homeless charity’s Christmas fundraising appeal yesterday, Kenny reflected on going to watch the priest speak at a roadshow in Buncrana.

“My wife Siobhán and I went along and spent a bit of time with him. He talked us through his whole strategy and plan,” said Kenny, recalling a chat with McVerry.

“It’s an amazing foundation and does tremendous work. You couldn’t really not support it. It’s not an issue turning up, it’s a privilege.”

There’s a slight discomfort in switching discussion from such an initiative to the business of Kenny’s day job. But the reality is that the first day of November is the kick-off for a month that will determine his future.

Barring a disaster in the double-header with Portugal and Luxembourg, the Dubliner’s stay as Ireland manager will be extended.

Bringing October’s form into these games should be sufficient, yet the manager is conscious that he needs the key players in the successes over Luxembourg and Qatar to be present.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for them since then, although the good news is that Jamie McGrath appears to have avoided serious injury even though he was stretchered off in St Mirren’s defeat to Rangers with a hip problem.

He will be named in Kenny’s squad on Thursday along with Jason Knight, provided the Derby midfielder safely comes through a league outing with Barnsley the previous night. The Dubliner has suffered with a thigh problem.

Illness cost Caoimhín Kelleher a League Cup outing against Preston, but Ireland and Liverpool’s number two is expected to recover in time. A minor knock for Aaron Connolly should be no obstacle to his involvement, although it’s clear he has dropped down the pecking order with Ireland much as Kenny retains faith the Galwegian can deliver in the longer run.

Matt Doherty is back from a minor muscle injury that saw him leave the pitch at half-time against Qatar; the only fear for Kenny is that the change of manager at Spurs might deprive the right-back of the game-time he was expected to get when Vitesse Arnhem visit London in the Conference League on Thursday night.

Doherty has played some of his best football for Ireland under Kenny and the rebirth of Jeff Hendrick has been another feature of the autumn.

But it hasn’t impacted on his club situation at Newcastle with Hendrick failing to make the bench at the weekend.

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His international manager is relaxed because of how the 29-year-old looks after himself.

“He has turned a corner, rejuvenated himself and played well for Ireland but he has not really got the opportunity at Newcastle this year,” said Kenny.

“He did lose his form when he went there initially. That was the case but he addressed that and got himself right and for us, he is playing very, very well. It is just one of those things, the new (caretaker Graeme Jones) manager went with a midfield two in their system which is 5-4-1 or a 5-2-3 and he found himself left out.

“It is just unfortunate for him at the moment and it is a difficult one. One of the things about him is that he is so focused on his own fitness, he has a stringent regime himself, to be fair, and he is probably one of the few players who, you know everyone needs match fitness but he seems to have the capacity where endurance is not an issue for him.

“He is very conscious of his diet, how he trains, and the application to his training is really excellent. In the last camp he was able to play two 90 minutes comfortably. That is credit to him.”

However, Hendrick’s long-term colleague Robbie Brady will have to be patient with Kenny stating he is not fit enough to be included as he gets up to speed with Bournemouth. “It’s not realistic for him to be involved,” he said,

“He’s a talented player who can play in a number of positions. Okay, he’s gone from a situation where he was probably number one on the team-sheet and maybe Ireland’s best player to a situation where he was out of contract and clubless.

“That can appear dramatic on the face of it, but he would have been a good signing for any club and will be a good signing for Bournemouth.”


The public can support the Peter McVerry Trust charity appeal by visiting www.pmvtrust.ie or calling 01 823 0776


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