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New Ireland starting to excite under Stephen Kenny | Johnny Ward

Ireland are projecting a new image to the world through their exciting style and the diverse back...

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

18:41 16 Oct 2021



Off The Ball
Off The Ball

18:41 16 Oct 2021


Ireland are projecting a new image to the world through their exciting style and the diverse backgrounds of the young footballer's emerging under Stephen Kenny, according to Johnny Ward.

Ward, along with Shane Keegan and Dan McDonnell joined John Duggan to discuss the recent international window and the progress made by Ireland, on OTB Football Saturday.

"This Ireland team has a really, really nice image now," said Ward.

"I know a lot of people, who wouldn't necessarily be soccer fans, but they stopped watching Ireland or stopped being particularly interested in Ireland because we had so many years of bad football.

"Maybe the Azerbaijan game at home was not great, but every Ireland game now is enjoyable to watch. We are watching a team that are playing nice football. Even when they are under the cosh, as they were against Serbia, these games are very good to watch.

"We have a really good image here and that is the image of the new Ireland. All of these kids coming through from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, basically all homegrown Irish players."

Ireland's newest generation contains some of the most exciting talents in the current squad, particularly Gavin Bazunu and Andrew Omobamidele who have seized their opportunities in the senior side and have since put on some really impressive performances.

"I think Bazunu's performance against Serbia in Lansdowne Road absolutely lifted the crowd that night," Ward continued.

"Omobamidele's run after his own [breakout] performance, having that brilliant strike, the place went absolutely bananas."

Ireland Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

It is not a coincidence that these bright young players are emerging under Kenny.

His knowledge of the underage set-up in Ireland is far-reaching considering his earlier run with the under-21s. The resurgence of some of the senior players within the squad, who flourished in the games against Qatar and Azerbaijan is just as impressive to Ward.

"When Kenny got the job, one of the concerns put forward, with some reason, was, he has managed League of Ireland dressing rooms, and the under-21s but what are established Premier League players going to think about this guy, who is a bit different. He is a bit of an enigma at times.

"The answer to that has been Callum Robinson developing into a player that I never saw him be for Ireland, in the last two games.

"Jeff Hendrick is having his best passage for four or five years and Shane Duffy has been unbelievably good under Kenny.

"These are established players completely buying into Kenny. You can tell the players love playing for him."

Shane Duffy, Ireland
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Matteo Ciambelli

A new contract might not be the only by-product of all of these exciting changes, according to Ward.

The current image of the team might finally help the Football Association of Ireland to entice a new sponsor for the men's side, something the organisation has struggled to do.

"If a new sponsor is coming in and clearly is in a good bargaining position because the FAI cannot say we have had 12 people knocking down the door here to sponsor the team because they haven't," Ward said.

"They haven't managed to have a sponsor in some time. Someone can take over sponsorship of the Irish team here and say 'actually this is something that I really want to be a part of."

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Andrew Omobamidele Callum Robinson FAI Ireland Jeff Hendrick Shane Duffy Stephen Kenny

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