Players have to make their own minds up over whether it's Northern Ireland or Republic says future 'Boys in Green' boss Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny led Dundalk to four league titles before leaving to become manager of the Republic of Ireland U21 side
Andy Watters

PLAYERS from Northren Ireland have to make up their own minds on where their international allegiance lies, says future Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.

The Dubliner, who will take over the reins of the ‘Boys in Green’ from Mick McCarthy in August 2020, met with the media yesterday to discuss his vision for the future and he reflected on his own understanding and first-hand knowledge of the north/south debate.

During his time as Derry City manager, Kenny brought through future Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland internationals and recalled a game in which six of his Candystripes’ team played on opposing sides.

“When I was managing Derry, Northern Ireland U21s played the Republic U21s at Glenavon and three of my players were playing for the Republic and three for the North in the same match,” said Kenny, who was appointed manager of the Republic’s U21 side on Saturday.

“I know the area better than most and I’m aware of it.

“Of that Derry team, seven went on to be capped by Northern Ireland or the Republic at senior level.

“I think it’s up to the individual player, isn’t it? It’s a very personal decision.

“There are even players at Dundalk now that have had to make decisions. Martin O’Neill contacted Michael Duffy (Northern Ireland U21 international) in relation to changing allegiance. I never advised him one way or the other, I wasn’t even party to that discussion, I only heard that secondhand.

“It’s a very personal decision for players.

“At Derry, I had Paddy McCourt, Niall McGinn and Daniel Lafferty went on to play for Northern Ireland and did really well and I helped them do that.

“Other players went on to play for the Republic and there were three players from Derry playing against the North last week – Shane Duffy, James McClean and Ronan Curtis.

“Under the Good Friday Agreement it’s a very personal decision for the players.”

Earlier, Kenny had expressed his pride at being confirmed as the Republic of Ireland’s U21 manager. He will also have an input into the teams from U15 up and will take over the senior reins from McCarthy after the 2020 European Championships.

“It’s a huge privilege to be named U21 manager and to be here for the next four years, and beyond I hope,” he said.

“It’s a huge honour and I feel very, very privileged and I’m looking forward to getting to work. I can’t wait to get started.

“Everything was finalized on Saturday and a week ago I couldn’t have envisaged this but it’s an arrangement that I am perfectly happy with, I’m delighted with it, it’s a great opportunity and I will work extremely hard to do it justice.”

Whether the Republic make it to Euro 2020 or win the tournament, Kenny will take over from McCarthy in August of that year. He intends to spend the time between now and then learning all he can from the vastly experienced Italia 1990 captain who managed the team to the 2002 World Cup finals.

“He has great experience, he captained Ireland for a long period and he had a very successful period as manager so I can only learn from him and that’s what I’ll do in the interim period,” said Kenny.



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