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Stephen Kenny: Republic of Ireland can't waste unique opportunity to beat Northern Ireland and qualify for Euros



Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has warned Northern Ireland his side will mean business should they clash in a Euro 2020 play-off decider at Windsor Park.

Kenny's first games in charge will be a Uefa Nations League double-header against Bulgaria and Finland in September, with the play-off semi-final against Slovakia fixed for October 8.

If the Republic can win that, the final of the play-off will be staged on November 12, away to either Bosnia or Ian Baraclough's side.

"We have to try and qualify for the European Championships, so we can't be too experimental in that phase," said Kenny.

"It's a unique opportunity to qualify for the Euros in Dublin, we can't waste it. And it's a really tough challenge, we've got to go away to Slovakia and away to Bosnia or Northern Ireland, win two back-to-back matches. That hasn't been done in many, many years, to beat significant nations back-to-back away. There's no reason why we can't do it. We haven't qualified for three of the last four tournaments and our last appearance at the World Cup was 2002."

Rotherham United midfielder Chiedozie Ogbene, meanwhile, has "expressed his desire" to represent the Republic.

Kenny says he has been in contact with former Limerick and Cork City player Ogebene, who has helped Rotherham win promotion to the Championship, and the player is keen to declare.

“It’s one that won’t happen for September, it could take over four months to be processed. We feel as someone who has lived in Ireland that he should qualify but there’s various bureaucratic procedures involved,” Kenny said.

“He has lived in Ireland since he was seven, he came on in the FAI Cup final against me at Dundalk. He did really well at Limerick and did it the hard way by going on loan.

“I went to see Trevor Clarke for Rotherham and he (Ogbene) was playing too. It was a windy day, a real physical encounter. I always thought of him as talented. Traditionally we’ve not had many forwards who are fast.”

But hopes of recruiting Birmingham City midfielder Dan Crowley may come to nothing due to paperwork issues. Crowley played for the Republic at U16 level but then played for England competitively from U17 level.

He has since expressed an interest in declaring for the Republic but because he did not have Irish citizenship when he played for England, Fifa rules could prevent him from making the switch now, as was the case when the FAI tried to get clearance for Bayern Munich teenager Ryan Johansson.

“There’s question marks over it because of this new Johansson ruling. The paperwork hasn’t been processed yet. I haven’t spoken to him. It’s because he didn’t have citizenship when he played for England,” Kenny said of Crowley.

He also said that young prospects Will Smallbone and Will Ferry, who have both made the first-team squad at Southampton this season with Ferry (18) the most recent addition to Ralf Hasenhuttl’s panel, will have to bide their time in the U21 squad as he needs a strong panel in place for the autumn challenges.

• Former Derry City physio Colum O’Neill has joined Kenny’s Republic backroom team.

O’Neill will join former Brandywell favourite Ruaidhri Higgins in the new set-up.

A graduate from the University of Ulster, O’Neill moves up to his new Athletic Therapist role from a similar position with the Republic’s under-21 squad.

Belfast Telegraph