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Republic of Ireland boss sets his sights on a successful Nations League campaign

The Irish have been drawn in Group B1 alongside Ukraine, Scotland and Armenia.

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The Republic of Ireland have lost only one of their last 10 matches under Stephen Kenny (John Walton/PA)

The Republic of Ireland have lost only one of their last 10 matches under Stephen Kenny (John Walton/PA)

The Republic of Ireland have lost only one of their last 10 matches under Stephen Kenny (John Walton/PA)

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny says his side must use next year’s Nations League to boost their hopes of achieving the “ultimate goal” of qualification for Euro 2024.

Ireland were on Thursday afternoon drawn in Group B1 of the competition alongside Ukraine, Scotland and Armenia.

Fixtures are scheduled to be fulfilled in June and September next year and will be the only competitive matches for the Irish in 2022 following their failure to reach the winter World Cup in Qatar.

Having seen his country fall well short of booking a spot at the forthcoming major tournament, Kenny is determined to seize every opportunity to be at the European Championship in Germany in three years’ time.

“Teams will take points off each other,” he said of the draw. “It’s a very competitive group, so we’ve just got to focus on ourselves.

“We’re third seeds and we would be third favourites to win the group but our ambition is to win the group or at least to try and qualify to get a play-off place for the European Championship, because that’s the ultimate goal: to qualify for the European Championship in Germany.

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“First place in the Nations League gets you a play-off; I’m informed second is most likely to get you a play-off.

“We certainly want to give ourselves every opportunity of doing that.”

Ireland will twice face Euro 2020 quarter-finalists Ukraine in the first block of Nations League matches in June, with games against Armenia and Scotland sandwiched in the middle.

They will round off the competition in September with a trip to Scotland followed by a home game against Armenia.

The Republic are yet to win a Nations League match, drawing five and losing five across the first two editions of the tournament.

However, Kenny’s record as national team manager has improved significantly during the past six months, with his team having suffered a solitary defeat in their last 10 outings following no victory in his opening 11 fixtures.

September’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss in Portugal was the only setback during that period following two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Kenny is satisfied to be on an upward trajectory moving towards two friendlies in March against unconfirmed opposition.

“The demands are high,” he said. “We’ve been building the squad that we’re going to need. We don’t have just one set XI now going forward for these (initial) four (Nations League) games.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, inflicted defeat on Ireland in September (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, inflicted defeat on Ireland in September (Isabel Infantes/PA)

PA

Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, inflicted defeat on Ireland in September (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“We’re given a tough schedule of matches the way it’s turned out.

“But nevertheless it shouldn’t make us any less determined to get positive results.

“We’ve had positive results of late – Cristiano Ronaldo’s late goal being our only defeat in the last 10.

“We’re getting better, I think we’re improving but we still need to continue improving and hopefully the two games in March gives us the chance to improve again.”


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