By Damian Spellman, PA
Stephen Kenny has bemoaned the lack of a pathway to the senior Republic of Ireland team under his predecessors after handing call-ups to four more uncapped players.
The Ireland boss has included 18-year-old Norwich defender Andrew Omobamidele, Shamrock Rovers midfielder Daniel Mandroiu, Jamie McGrath, who scored 17 goals for Scottish Premiership St Mirren during the season which has just ended, and Rotherham winger Chiedozie Ogbene in his squad for next month’s friendlies against Andorra and Hungary.
He did so having already promoted 15 players from the under-age groups and capped 13 of them, something which was a rarity under Giovanni Trapattoni, Martin O’Neill and Mick McCarthy, who handed Brighton striker Aaron Connolly his first senior start towards the end of his reign.
Kenny said: “Some might feel it’s too much change too quickly and I understand that viewpoint, but in my opinion, that is necessary because we’ve had absolutely no development for about eight or nine years.
“We’ve had one player through in nine years and nobody really looking at that, and then a huge demographic between players (who are) 29 and 30 and 20 – and very little in between.
“We have a bigger vision for what we want to achieve going forward by integrating these players. Not all of them will become top-class international players, but a number of them will.
“We’ve got a lot of talent and we want to see it develop, we want to give it the opportunity to develop and we want to see the team triumph. That’s certainly what we want and we have a clear idea of how we want to do that.”
Kenny admits he has probably not yet been able to pick what he would consider to be his strongest squad for any of the 11 games for which he has been in charge to date as a result of injuries and crucially in the case of last October’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia, Covid-19 protocols.
The fact that Ireland have won none of those fixtures, the last but one of them a demoralising 1-0 World Cup qualifier defeat by Luxembourg in March, has sparked criticism of the man who stepped up from the Under-21 ranks to replace McCarthy.
He will attempt to further instil his philosophy during a training camp in Spain which will include fixtures against Andorra in Barcelona on June 3rd and Hungary in Budapest five days later.
That will be easier said than done with the likes of James McCarthy, Ciaran Clark, Jeff Hendrick, Enda Stevens and Alan Browne either injured or resting after gruelling seasons.
However, with a triple-header of qualifiers against Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia to come in September, he insists there is a chance for his newcomers to play their way into contention, just as Dara O’Shea, Jayson Molumby and Adam Idah among others have done before them.
He said: “There are always opportunities. We will be missing players invariably through injury in September. It happens. You need players who can adapt to that and play.”
Any involvement for Omobamidele would cap a meteoric rise after he forced his way into Norwich’s title-wining side for the final eight games of the Sky Bet Championship season.
Kenny said: “He has accelerated into the senior squad more quickly than we anticipated. He is 18 years of age, but he has looked extremely composed and athletic. He has gone into the Norwich team and has not looked out of place.”
Squad: Darren Randolph (West Ham), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale, on loan from Manchester City), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham), Lee O’Connor (Tranmere, on loan from Celtic), James McClean (Stoke), Ryan Manning (Swansea), Shane Duffy (Brighton), Dara O’Shea (West Brom), John Egan (Sheff Utd), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich) Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Conor Hourihane (Swansea, on loan from Aston Villa), Harry Arter (Nottm Forest), Jason Knight (Derby), Jayson Molumby (Preston, on loan from Brighton), Jamie McGrath (St Mirren), Daniel Mandroiu (Shamrock Rovers), Callum Robinson (West Brom), James Collins (Luton ), Adam Idah (Norwich), Aaron Connolly (Brighton), Troy Parrott (Tottenham), Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe).