Stephen Kenny fully expects to gain contract extension

Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly is injured for the upcoming games
Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly is injured for the upcoming games Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly is injured for the upcoming games

REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny fully expects to be still in charge for next summer’s Uefa Nations League games as they wind up their World Cup qualification against Portugal (h) and Luxembourg (a) next week.

After a pockmarked start to his tenure with the senior team, the affable Dubliner appears to have rode out the storm and even though his contract expires in July, he doesn’t anticipate any move against him in the FAI to continue in the role.

The 50-year-old was under intense pressure at various times in a qualification campaign that was probably never going to see Ireland make their fourth finals appearance given the overhaul in coaching and playing personnel.

An ignominious home loss to minnows Luxembourg last March and a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan effectively ended their hopes of World Cup qualification – but there has been sufficient progress in terms of player and tactical development.

“I’ve done the job the way I see fit,” Kenny said at yesterday’s squad announcement for the upcoming double-header.

“Regardless of any discussion around the contract, we want to have two strong performances. My contract is not up until next July.

“You do things you feel are the right things to do. You make decisions based on what you feel is right. You back your conviction.

“If that’s good enough, fair enough… I fully intend being manager for the Nations League campaign. That’s the way I see it.

“Obviously, I’m just looking at these games against Portugal and Luxembourg, just preparing accordingly and watching the team evolve. There are a lot of aspects we could improve on.”

Fit-again Seamus Coleman was restored to Kenny’s 26-man squad after missing the last couple of international windows, as do Alan Browne and Jayson Molumby, while eyebrows were raised over striker Aaron Connolly’s omission, although the manager assured reporters that the Brighton man was merely nursing a heel injury and was not fit to play.

“I spoke to Aaron…Aaron Connolly is one of our best attacking players,” said Kenny, dispelling any notion of the player being dropped from the squad.

“I’ve great belief in him. He’s had it tough with not playing matches and his confidence [has been affected] maybe because he hasn’t been playing.

“He’s had an up and down time with injuries. He has a great determination to do well, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he doesn’t hide his disappointment… He felt his Achilles heel wasn’t right and he hasn’t been able to train. That’s why he’s not in the squad.”

With the return of Coleman, the manager believes he has “proper dilemmas” in wide areas of the field with Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens and, more recently, James McClean vying for the two wing-back positions.

“That level of competition at wing-back is really good, a good standard. You would like to replicate that level of competition in every area if we could.”

“It gives us real competition and proper dilemmas. We’ve got to consider how we manage that.”

With the brilliant ascension of Andrew Omobamidele, there is still no room in the squad for central defender Ciaran Clark, a regular for Newcastle United this season.

Explaining Clark’s absence, Kenny said: “He’s been a very good player for Ireland and he’s been playing every game for Newcastle. He wasn’t available for one window and it just meant the other players that came in did well. Andrew Omobamidele came in and did well.

“Ciaran is certainly available if we need him. That’s the stage he is at in his career. We haven’t made any changes from last month in those positions.”

Republic of Ireland squad to face Portugal (November 11) and Luxembourg (November 14)

Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Portsmouth, on loan from Manchester City), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth).

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion), John Egan (Sheffield United), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Nathan Collins (Burnley).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Sheffield United, on loan from Aston Villa), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Jason Knight (Derby County), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jamie McGrath (St. Mirren).

Forwards: Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Troy Parrott (MK Dons, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Adam Idah (Norwich City), James Collins (Cardiff City), Will Keane (Wigan Athletic), Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers).