Stephen Kenny, manager of the Republic of Ireland under fire, fiercely defends the young team after the loss of Luxembourg

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Ireland’s manager under fire Stephen Kenny fiercely defends his ‘very talented’ young squad despite the embarrassing defeat of the World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg – and insists that they will ‘flourish’ in the future.

  • Ireland hit a low last week by losing to minnows Luxembourg at home
  • Stephen Kenny’s team lost 1-0 after playing against several players under 22
  • The Irish manager has defended his youngsters and supported their qualities
  • Ireland will close the international break on Tuesday with a friendly against Qatar

Stephen Kenny has insisted that his young guns will be the stars of the Republic of Ireland as he tries to guide them through their World Cup woes.

The Republic’s hopes of qualifying from Group A were dashed by a demoralizing 1-0 home defeat to Luxembourg, which followed a hard-fought 3-2 defeat in Serbia.

Seven of the men who played in those two games – Mark Travers, Dara O’Shea, Aaron Connolly, Jayson Molumby, Gavin Bazunu, Jason Knight, and Troy Parrott – were 22 or younger, and under the criticism Kenny and his players have since has been a suggestion that some of the youngsters introduced by the former Under-21s boss are simply not good enough and never will be.

Irish manager Stephen Kenny, under fire, has backed up his young stars amid some poor results

Irish manager Stephen Kenny, under fire, has backed up his young stars amid some poor results

Ireland was held at home against Luxembourg last week to a shocking defeat after losing to Serbia

Ireland was held at home against Luxembourg last week to a shocking defeat after losing to Serbia

Ireland was held at home against Luxembourg last week to a shocking defeat after losing to Serbia

However, ahead of Tuesday night’s friendly against Qatar in Debrecen, a defiant Kenny said: ‘It would be too easy for me to say we will have long-term success with this, but what I will say is players coming through , many of them are very talented.

There are some suggestions that they will all play in Ireland again and that they are not that talented. All those players who came in – Dara O’Shea, Jason Knight, Jayson Molumby, Aaron Connolly, Caoimhin Kelleher, Gavin Bazunu and all those players, they will all have a good career at the highest level.

“ They are going to be good players for Ireland in the future and they are talented players, and you will see them blossom – and also other players like Troy Parrott and players I didn’t even mention.

Several of Ireland's regular stars this month, such as Aaron Connolly, are 22 or younger

Several of Ireland's regular stars this month, such as Aaron Connolly, are 22 or younger

Several of Ireland’s regular stars this month, such as Aaron Connolly, are 22 or younger

‘A lot of players are coming in and that is a very positive point. But I think it’s not just the long term, I think we can be good at this campaign. ‘

It will be a while for Kenny to embed a new generation and align them with the rigors of senior international football, but Derby midfielder Knight, 20, is confident they are now ready to make an impact.

He said, “I think you can say that, but we young boys who are getting through it need to take it one step further now. This is the international stage and you are here for a reason, so it is up to us to eventually perform and perform when we are asked to. ‘

Kenny’s future has been questioned since the weekend, not only because of the defeat to Luxembourg, but also because it extended his streak without a win to 10 games at the start of his reign.

Kenny accepts criticism for himself after poor form, but has supported his players

Kenny accepts criticism for himself after poor form, but has supported his players

Kenny accepts criticism for himself after poor form, but has supported his players

He said: ‘When I took the job, I knew we are there now: if you lose to Luxembourg, you have to accept the criticism.

Scotland has beaten Israel and Serbia on penalties [to the Euro 2020 finals]We lost to Slovakia on penalties after a really top performance.

‘We showed what we were made of against Serbia and lost 3-2. The big disappointment for us is losing to Luxembourg.

‘It is not the Luxembourg of old and we cannot be disrespectful, but we expect to have to beat them at home. We did not and you should expect criticism. ‘

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