Ireland team to train at Aviva the day before World Cup qualifiers in September

Kenny says he is aware many of our young players have not played that much at the Aviva

Stephen Kenny is never short of ideas to reconnect Irish football fan with his largely unknown squad, many of whom are struggling to find a club, never mind regular game time in the Premier League.

The Republic of Ireland manager intends to solve any unfamiliarity that newly established regulars like Jason Knight and Gavin Bazunu might encounter at the Aviva stadium when Azerbaijan and Serbia come to Dublin for World Cup qualifiers in September.

“I am conscious that a lot of our young players have not played at the Aviva that much,” said Kenny during a visit to Templeogue United for the Intersport Elverys FAI summer soccer school. “We have never had a policy traditionally of training in the Aviva the day before so we are going to do that.

“We are going to fly straight over to Portugal on the Sunday [August 29th] , pick up some players in England and train in Portugal, but when we come back on the Thursday [September 2nd] 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 our home a bit more.


"It is alright if you've got 50 or 60 caps," he added in reference to veterans like Robbie Brady and James McCarthy being no strangers to the Lansdowne roar over the past 10 years.

It does, however, look increasingly unlikely that either creative midfielder will feature in the six qualifier matches for Qatar 2022, running to the return leg in Luxembourg on November 14th, as both men are searching for employment after parting ways with Burnley and Crystal Palace.

The list of unsigned or unused Irish professionals at English clubs is depressingly long. Kenny mentioned that the “immensely talented” duo of Brady and McCarthy, who share 100 caps between them, will have offers without being able to shed any light on their short-term futures.

What the manager can control is preparation for those who will be available.

“I’ve been in charge of four games at the Aviva in front of empty stands,” he said. “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 don’t know how many we will have.”

Bohemians needed only 90 minutes to sell 8,000 tickets for next week’s Europa League qualifier against Dudelange of Luxembourg at the Aviva.

“6,000 Bohs fans made it seem like more than 6,000 last week [against Icelandic opposition],” said Kenny. “It doesn’t feel the same in front of empty stadiums. It is just fantastic for the players to experience that in September.”

Stone’s throw

As soon as the Ireland squad returns from what may prove a chastising night at Estadio Algarve on September 1st, considering Cristiano Ronaldo needs one more strike to move clear of Iran's Ali Daei at the top of the international goal-scoring charts with 110, Kenny will change the usual routine of staying in Castleknock hotel to be a stone's throw from Lansdowne road.

“I saw them play two different systems,” he remarked of Portugal’s ultimately unfulfilled summer. “Probably they are amongst the three teams with the most attacking talent at the Euros but some of it was on the bench. They had some terrific players in reserve but they have six attacking players of high, high quality.

“Obviously I saw them against Germany, the 4-2 in Munich, playing against a 3-4-3 and they exploited it with [Diogo] Jota scoring and crossing for Ronaldo to score by getting in that area between the fullback and centre back.

“But Germany, with their high wing backs, caused them no end of problems. So that was interesting.

“They addressed that for the next game against France, even though it was a different way of playing, going back to their 4-1-4-1, but the player that was really good for them, even though he didn’t start the early games, was Renato Sanches. He played really well, so much so that Bruno Fernandes was left out.

“I am looking forward to going and playing them. I feel buoyant about the camp.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent