Irish U21s manager Stephen Kenny has hit back at Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley after he claimed that only players who play in England should have been included in the upcoming Toulon Tournament squad.
Kenny opted for seven home-based players meaning six League of Ireland games must be postponed, something that Bradley took umbrage to as it will now result in fixture congestion later on in the campaign.
“I think it’s a joke that we’re not playing,” said Bradley.
“It’s madness, it’s not good enough.
“Toulon is a great tournament and should we go to it? Yes. But we need to understand that we can’t have six games off because of it.
“It should have been England-based players for the simple fact we’re in the middle of the season.”
Speaking on Monday, Kenny outlined that the tournament represents a massive opportunity for all involved in the squad and that he can’t see a negative in young players getting the chance to play in a competition like this.
“Listen, I think from a players’ perspective, it’s an amazing experience for them because they are playing in a tournament, they are playing a Chinese team that in their eyes are going to Tokyo to play the Olympics.
“Mexico would be good standard. We’ve a bit to learn against Bahrain, three different cultures. We will have a fourth game and the possibility exists that we can get through to the semi-finals and if we do, we can play five games.
“The games are free to air all over the UK and Ireland and Europe and televised around the world.
“In the other countries, they will have similar interest. In the Far East and South America. There’s not big attendances in terms of support but every club in Europe of note will have representatives at it.
“I’ve spoken to several people who from the top clubs will be at it. So it’s a massive opportunity for players to play an U21 international against good teams [for games] that are live on television. It’s a great opportunity, so if you’re asking me to see a negative in that, I can’t.”
The former Dundalk boss was pressed on the issue of domestic games being postponed and the comments of Bradley and outlined that the League of Ireland should take pride in their players representing the Boys in Green.
“Listen, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. As someone who managed in the league for a long number of years and initially, when I started, you couldn’t get a game on TV, you didn’t have any interest, self-esteem was non-existent.
“And then to the way we achieved, the way that was achieved to progressing Europe, getting great results in Europe and going on and I think great domestic cup finals and FAI Cup finals and pivotal league games. For years in recent history, the league didn’t have an Under 21 player for a full calendar year, I think we’d eight in the last squad and ended up with nine, we’re giving players the opportunity to really excel at the highest level, that kind of exposure reflects well on the league.
“Players come in Darragh Leahy, Neil Farrugia, Zak Elbouzedi and excel in the last game and people are saying these are great players and they’re better than players at major clubs because managers pick players ahead of players from the top Premier [League] clubs and top European clubs. That reflects well on the league.”
Kenny also disagreed with the idea that he should’ve only picked players from England to avoid domestic fixture postponement.
“To say that well you know we don’t think that players when we go to a prestigious tournament with a worldwide TV audience that we should not pick players from our league, we should only pick players from England, I couldn’t agree with that. I think that’s a point of view and it’s not my point of view.”