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Predicting Stephen Kenny’s first Republic of Ireland starting XI

On Monday, Stephen Kenny named his first squad as Republic of Ireland manager after taking over the role in April.

Stephen Kenny’s Ireland take on both Bulgaria and Finland in a double-header in the UEFA Nations League in September.

But what will the XI who take to the field in Sofia on September 3rd look like?

Stephen Kenny



Goalkeeper: Darren Randolph

Kenny named Darren Randolph, Mark Travers and Kieran O’Hara as his three goalkeepers for the games against Bulgaria and Finland.

Travers could be set for a big season at Bournemouth and O’Hara will be looking for a fresh start at a new club however Randolph is the obvious choice.

The West Ham man has been exceptional over the past few years for Ireland and we expect him to stay between the sticks for the Nations League double-header.


Defence: Enda Stevens, John Egan, Shane Duffy, Seamus Coleman

The Irish manager has been fairly adamant that it will not be three at the back meaning the defence shouldn’t look much different.

Sheffield United’s Enda Stevens is a lock at left-back as is teammate John Egan at centre-back. Kenny has already outlined that Egan will have a huge role to play in the new regime.

Shane Duffy’s club future is up in the air however he’s consistently been brilliant for Ireland. Expect him to be one of the first names on the teamsheet.

The dilemma, like for McCarthy before, comes at right-back. Kenny has already outlined that Coleman will be his captain meaning he’ll likely start.

Kenny could deploy Doherty further up the pitch, however, the Wolves man isn’t used to playing in a front three. It could well be a toss-up between the two come September.


Midfield: James McCarthy, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick

There is significant competition in the midfield role, with Jayson Molumby an exciting addition to Kenny’s squad.

He may need time before starting however and we expect Kenny to go with experience in his first game. James McCarthy’s return to the Irish setup is a huge plus.

The 29-year-old was outstanding for Crystal Palace last season and can act as the perfect holder in Ireland’s front three. Jeff Hendrick is also in and he is exactly the kind of player Kenny could get the best out of.

The Newcastle man has been a little off the boil with Ireland over the past couple of years or so but has all the tools to be a key cog in the Irish midfield.

The final inclusion comes in the form of Conor Hourihane, who towards the end of the season proved vital for Aston Villa’s survival hopes.

Stephen Kenny

Hourihane is another who can step up a level under Kenny, and with McCarthy holding, he may be given a more creative role in the midfield.

His set-pieces are also a huge plus.


Forwards: Aaron Connolly, Shane Long, Callum Robinson

Aaron Connolly was primarily used in a front two at Brighton this season, however, he has played wide under Stephen Kenny before.

The 20-year-old was extremely effective in that position at the Toulon Tournament and Kenny could see his pace as a huge benefit on the right.

Stephen Kenny

On the left, James McClean has a legitimate shout for a start given the strong season he’s had, however, Callum Robinson just edges it.

The 25-year-old looked revitalised during a loan spell at West Brom, where he played on the left-wing. The Sheffield United man was a huge part of the Baggies’ promotion from the Championship.

The number nine role will be interesting and would have likely gone to David McGoldrick had he been fit enough for the Bulgaria game.

Adam Idah and Troy Parrott are both included but expect Kenny to go with the experience of Shane Long. The Southampton man had a strong season at St Mary’s and is deservedly back in the Irish fold.


Stephen Kenny’s first XI


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Author: Oisin McQueirns

Oisin McQueirns is a digital journalist at Pundit Arena. Massive fan of Leeds United, Ric Flair and Trusting The Process. Contact him here [email protected]