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Republic boss Kenny set to pick Doherty over Coleman in Sofia clash


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All smiles: Seamus Coleman and Shane Duffy train with the Republic yesterday

All smiles: Seamus Coleman and Shane Duffy train with the Republic yesterday

�INPHO/Kostadin Andonov

All smiles: Seamus Coleman and Shane Duffy train with the Republic yesterday

Stephen Kenny is preparing to pick Matt Doherty ahead of Seamus Coleman for his first game as Republic of Ireland manager.

The Republic boss has indicated that he will stick with a back four for tonight's game with Bulgaria in Sofia and that effectively means a straight choice between Doherty and Coleman for the right-back spot given his plans to operate with a 4-3-3-style system.

Kenny is leaning towards Spurs' new £15m recruit Doherty after offering the view that he has been undervalued by previous managers.

He did bring his captain, Coleman, with him to last night's stadium press conference in Bulgaria but it's anticipated Doherty will get the nod with the manager favouring retaining the back four that started Mick McCarthy's final game in charge with Enda Stevens at left-back and Shane Duffy and John Egan in central defence.

Kenny admits that speaking honestly about his regard for his players may have built expectations but he is comfortable with the pressure.

He has promised an aggressive and positive approach to herald the start of a new era.

The former Dundalk manager has warned that it may be unrealistic to expect radical changes off the back of a handful of training sessions. However, he is confident that the players can adapt to a change of style towards a more possession-based approach.

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"Sometimes I answer questions too honestly but it's not a deliberate strategy," said the Dubliner. "Maybe it's not wise, maybe other people are wiser.

"But I do believe that we have a lot of potential coming through the ranks. We have a lot of good players in the squad already and I think it's a huge honour really to manage this group, a huge privilege.

"I don't see any added pressure really. We definitely have a clear way on how we want to play.

"We will be aggressive, I absolutely say that with conviction. We will press high the way we're capable of doing and we'll ultimately want to control the games in the way that we can.

"They are all good players who are playing at a high level and they're used to changing managers. They are tactically adaptable and intelligent people and they can take stuff on board."

Meanwhile, skipper Coleman has insisted Kenny has nothing to prove to his players as he prepares to send them into battle for the first time.

Former midfielder Jason McAteer suggested some members of the squad might question the pedigree of a manager who has previously plied his trade largely in the League of Ireland.

However, Coleman was adamant a man who guided Dundalk to the group stage of the Europa League before taking over the national Under-21s side can allow his record to speak for itself on the eve of his first game.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Everton's former Sligo Rovers defender said: "I came from the League of Ireland and the job the manager did with numerous teams, but especially Dundalk, getting to the group stages and nearly getting out of the group stages, caught the interest of all the international players.

"The job he did with the Under-21s was exceptional too. There is always going to be people with opinions, but I don't think the manager needs to answer any of that, his record speaks for itself."

Kenny will launch his tenure with Nations League fixtures against the Bulgarians and Finland, who head for Dublin on Sunday, although next month's Euro 2020 play-off trip to Slovakia will not be far from the minds of those involved - as will a possible final against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, should they overcome Bosnia in Zenica in their own semi-final.

Coleman, who took over the captain's armband at Euro 2016, is keen to repeat the experience and is well aware of exactly what is at stake with the Aviva Stadium one of the host venues for the finals.

He said: "Slovakia is massive for us. We all want to play in the European Championship in front of our own fans.

"These two games are a chance for us to impress the manager as best we can and be as well prepared for that Slovakia game because at the end of the day, there is no better feeling than being at a major tournament - and with it being in Dublin as well."

bulgaria v rep IRELAND

Vasil Levski National Stadium, Tonight, 7.45pm


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