We can’t dwell on players who could have been here – Stephen Kenny

Jack Grealish (left) and Declan Rice (right) were in the Ireland set-up prior to switching allegiance to England (Andy Rain/PA).
Jack Grealish (left) and Declan Rice (right) were in the Ireland set-up prior to switching allegiance to England (Andy Rain/PA). (PA Wire)
22:05pm, Sun 08 Nov 2020
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Stephen Kenny has stressed the Republic of Ireland cannot dwell upon Declan Rice and Jack Grealish switching allegiance to England, with the focus firmly on the future.

West Ham midfielder Rice and Aston Villa captain Grealish are in the England squad for Thursday’s friendly against Ireland at Wembley.

Rice’s time in the Irish set-up before making the switch included three senior appearances, and Grealish played up to Under-21 level.

Jack Grealish made his England debut in September (Carl Recine/PA). (PA Wire)

Asked with regard to the pair if he ever found himself wondering what might have been, boss Kenny said: “Not really.

“I think obviously they are both very good players. I’m very happy with some of the players we have. We have a lot of talent coming through.

“I think we have a lot of good players, a lot of talent, and we’re not far away from being a very good side.

“I can’t worry about other players that could have been part of the equation. We can’t really dwell on that from our point of view. We have to look forward and see what players are coming through and what other players emerge.”

All the players love playing for Ireland, in all of the age groups.

Kenny was then asked if he had thought about what he could do to prevent similar scenarios arising down the line.

And he said: “Well, I think I can’t make promises you can’t fulfil.

“What we can do is try to make the environment at all ages, all levels, as professional as possible, make sure there’s a clear pathway between the Under-15s and the senior international team, make sure the players are exceptional and move up the ages quicker, to accelerate their development. I think that’s very important.

“Try to create an environment that players can really identify with, an identify for the Irish team.

Stephen Kenny took charge of the Republic of Ireland in April (Emmi Korhonen/PA). (PA Wire)

“And to be fair, all the players love playing for Ireland, in all of the age groups. There can be some misinformation maybe nowadays that players are not as committed – that wasn’t my experience when I came in and managed the players.

“I felt when they were left out of squads they were devastated and desperate to play.”

After the England fixture, Ireland – so far winless in five games under Kenny since his step up from the Under-21s, including last month’s Euros play-off semi-final loss on penalties to Slovakia – play Nations League matches away against Wales next Sunday and then at home against Bulgaria three days later.

While Kenny’s squad does not feature 85-cap striker Shane Long, the manager has emphasised the 33-year-old still has an international future.

Shane Long is not a part of the squad for the matches against England, Wales and Bulgaria (Steven Paston/PA). (PA Archive)

Long has only started twice for Southampton since March, and not at all so far this season.

And Kenny said: “Shane has been an outstanding centre-forward for Ireland.

“He is just short of minutes. Of course he has a future for Ireland.

“He is a terrific player and hopefully he gets back into the Southampton team and gets regular game time, because he has been a great ambassador for Ireland.”

Sheffield United defender Enda Stevens was removed from the squad on Sunday evening after picking up a knock on his knee in Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Chelsea, with Nottingham Forest’s Cyrus Christie called up as a replacement.

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