Stephen Kenny on Ireland's 'historical' run of games
Bulgaria host Ireland in the opening UEFA Nations League of the new international season, the first of a potential eight games between now and November 18th, when the reverse fixture is due to take centre stage at the Aviva Stadium.
No Ireland manager has ever faced eight games in two different competitions in 10 weeks before. None of Stephen’s predecessors have played European Championship play-offs, Nations UEFA League games and FIFA World Cup qualifiers in a calendar year.
It is an exciting start to an exciting year for Irish football and the new manager who takes charge in Sofia on Thursday night knows it.
“This is historical,” Stephen told FAI.ie as he addressed the Irish media via a virtual press conference from the team hotel on Wednesday morning. “No Irish team has ever had the opportunity to play this many games in three different competitions in the space of a year.
“We have the Nations League and the chance to qualify for a World Cup play-off and gain promotion to Division A of this competition which would be incredible. We have the EURO 2020 play-off against Slovakia next month and the possibility of a final against Bosnia & Herzegovina or Northern Ireland in November.
“And we have World Cup qualifiers next March then friendlies and the prospect of playing two games in the Euro 2020 finals in Dublin against Sweden and Poland and a game against Spain in Bilbao. It can be historic and we know it.”
The first Ireland squad of the Stephen Kenny reign met-up in Dublin on Sunday and trained at the FAI’s National Training Centre on Abbotstown on Monday and Tuesday before the flight to Sofia, and a pre-match session in the Vasil Levski Stadium on Wednesday night.
Preparation time has been limited but the message is getting across. Ireland will play with pace and belief and ambition against Bulgaria on Thursday night, and again when we host Finland in Dublin on Sunday.
“I haven’t had time to think about the significance of all this because we have been so busy since Sunday but I do know it is a privilege to be the Ireland manager, a huge privilege,” said Stephen as his Ireland team counts down to kick-off and a nation prepares to dream again