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Birthday boy Kenny not expecting more gifts in Russia

By Aidan Fitzmaurice

The locals had done their homework. When Stephen Kenny checked into his hotel room in St Petersburg late on Tuesday night, after a trip from Dublin which was delayed by issues with Dundalk's chartered flight, there was some cake and a message awaiting him from hotel management, congratulating him on the occasion of his 45th birthday over the weekend.

Another gift, of sorts, came his way yesterday morning when Martin O'Neill confirmed that two Dundalk players - Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan - would be named in the Republic of Ireland squad for next week's World Cup tie in Austria.

Kenny is not expecting any presents when he takes his side to a snow-kissed pitch in a chilly St Petersburg this evening, the 9pm local time kick-off ensuring that temperatures will be a real test for the recently crowned Airtricity League champions.

Dundalk winning tonight is unlikely, as classy European outfits like Lyon, Benfica, PSV and Sevilla have all tried, and failed, to win in St Petersburg in recent times.

"I am led to believe that Zenit are the highest-ranked team in the competition and we are the lowest, so for us to get a victory or a result would be a real shock throughout Europe," Kenny said.

"If we got that it would put us in a very strong position in the group.

"Listen, they're a brilliant team and we'll have to be brilliant to get something extraordinary. But we are capable of that."

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