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killer instincts Stephen Kenny's men can end the year on a real high with revenge in Luxembourg

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Manager Stephen Kenny, right, in conversation with Adam Idah during an Ireland training session‎ at Stade de Luxembourg in Luxembourg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Manager Stephen Kenny, right, in conversation with Adam Idah during an Ireland training session‎ at Stade de Luxembourg in Luxembourg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Manager Stephen Kenny, right, in conversation with Adam Idah during an Ireland training session‎ at Stade de Luxembourg in Luxembourg. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

We’ve reached the end of a disappointing World Cup campaign, but at least Ireland’s footballers now have something to play for in Luxembourg tonight.

They will want to finish third in the group rather than fourth.

Of course, they would have wanted to be playing for second this evening and so get a play-off place. But that went out the window after the loss to Luxembourg in Dublin in March derailed the whole thing in only our second match.

Revenge is not a word that sits easy with sport of any kind, but it is what our team should be looking for in Luxembourg, now that confidence in the camp is clearly high.

I expect Stephen Kenny to make changes for tonight – at least three of them. Firstly, will he ask Seamus Coleman to go again, and play a second time in four days so soon after suffering a hamstring strain?

The skipper was superb against Portugal. I know Callum Robinson got the official Man of the Match and the manager rightly had huge praise for both Shane Duffy and John Egan after the game, but for me Seamus was immense.

Remember, he’s a full-back by trade, not a marking centre-back, but there he was on Thursday night doing a number on Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest players there has ever been.

And what about Seamus’s first half block to save a certain goal. Only a player of his experience could have pulled it off, knowing where to be at just the right time.

Still though, with Nathan Collins available to step in, and Luxembourg having no one remotely of Ronaldo’s class, I suspect Stephen Kenny will err on the side of caution with his captain for this one and give Collins his debut.

He could do with fresh legs in midfield too, after Jeff Hendrick and Josh Cullen put in a hard night against the Portuguese.

To drop either of them for, say, Jason Knight or Conor Hourihane would be harsh, but Luxembourg’s midfielders worked very hard to close Ireland down during their famous win in Dublin.

We can expect more of the same from them in this one and willing legs will be needed in Green in midfield.

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If the Irish manager sticks with Hendrick and Cullen from the off, he knows he is facing into replacing both of them around the hour mark tonight and will he want to do that if the game is still finely balanced?

And up front I expect Adam Idah to be in from the beginning. He missed the last international window, but had been a big player for this emerging Ireland team prior to that.

Kenny may well have held the Norwich City man back against Portugal for just that reason.

With Robinson not going to be dropped, the question is does the manager hope that Jamie McGrath and Chiedozie Ogbene can replicate their Dublin displays against Luxembourg just 72 hours later.

He’ll probably believe the answer is No, for at least one of them and so Idah will come in.

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Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action against Ireland's Seamus Coleman

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action against Ireland's Seamus Coleman

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action against Ireland's Seamus Coleman

There was a lot to like against Portugal, in how this Irish team is coming together. Yet issues, big issues, remain. We’re still short that ‘No 10’ – the class player who can open international quality defences with a trick or a killer pass.

A couple of times on Thursday that pass was on for an Irish player, but they either didn’t see it, or didn’t have the confidence to execute it.

If this Irish group is to grow into a football force over the next few years, and it is certainly young enough to do just that, we need to find that player from somewhere in the under-age ranks right now.

Because the higher up the football food chain you go, the less you can rely on goals from set-pieces and defensive errors. You have to beat the best teams with your class and unfortunately that touch of something special is missing from our package right now.

Did you notice how on Thursday we had several corners and free-kicks, but never fashioned a clear cut chance from any of them? That’s unusual for Ireland, and that was also playing against a Portuguese side that did not include Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo in its line-up.

But they had enough quality defenders to make sure that the likes of Duffy and Egan never got free as a cross was coming over.

How the November internationals end sets the tone for the next four months when players and management never meet, except maybe for a hushed chat in a corridor at a ground, after the manager has been over to Britain to watch a match.

I remember Martin O’Neill saying how his Christmas of 2014 was ruined by a November defeat to Scotland.

Now that campaign ended with Ireland qualifying for Euro 2016 but Martin was still stewing over saying farewell to his players for four months with the taste of defeat lingering in his mouth.

So, Ireland will want to finish this thing off with a win and move on. Barring an unlikely disaster tonight, Stephen Kenny will take us forward to next year’s Nations League and the Euro 2024 qualifiers which will begin in March of 2023.

He, and his players, have put in the bank the experiences of this year, good and bad, I’m still not convinced that we have the quality of players that will allow his tactics to work for us in the long-term.

But he has rebuilt, and infused with youth, what was a fast-ageing Irish team sufficiently well to be given more time and the better shot at qualifying for the big time that is a 24-nation European Championship.

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