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'The lads will love playing for Stephen Kenny' | Richie Towell

Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

13:23 6 Apr 2020

Former Dundalk midfielder Richie Towell believes the new Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny can give his team a more positive mindset.

With Euro 2020 postponed unt il next year and a date for the play-off match against Slovakia yet to be fixed, Kenny officially took the reins at the weekend after former boss Mick McCarthy agreed to end his deal with the FAI early.

The Dubliner has already taken the under-21 team to the top of a Euro 2021 qualifying group containing the likes of Italy and Sweden while playing some very eye-catching football along the way.

Towell won back-to-back SSE Airtricity League titles in 2014 and 2015 under Kenny when he was manager of Dundalk.

Now plying his trade with Salford City, Towell spoke on today's OTB AM about what makes Kenny such a brilliant boss.

"He's an amazing manager first of all. He's an amazing man. He doesn't just think of the team, he thinks of everybody," said Towell.

"A lot of managers always focus on their best eleven players and that's it. With Stephen it's a real team effort and that's right through from the people who make the tea at the club. That's what he was like at Dundalk.

"He made everybody feel part of a family and I think he will do that with Ireland.

"Obviously it will be a bit harder because he only gets to have lads for a certain amount of time of the year because they are going back to their clubs.

"But when he does have them there, I know that all the lads will love going and playing for Ireland and love going to play for him."

Kenny achieved great domestic success with the Lilywhites, winning five league titles, two FAI Cups and three League Cups but they also played high-quality, possession-based football.

Towell explained how Kenny instilled the kind of confidence into his squad to play that way.

"He just drilled that into us. Literally from the moment that we [first] met up, he just kept on at us," said Towell.

"Every time we went out on to the pitch, and I can't speak on behalf of other lads, I always felt like I was the best player going out on to the pitch.

"I always felt like I wanted the ball. I always wanted to be the one to take free kicks, take penalties, always wanted to be on the ball, always wanted to create chances, to take shots.

"He never, ever put the shackles on you in terms of, you must do this and you must do that.

He'd say, 'If you get into the final third, you do what you want to do. If you want to have a shot, you want to dribble, you want to commit defenders'.

"And that's the freedom that he gave you and his team talks are so inspirational. Every game you go out and you believe you can win."

As well as the domestic success, Dundalk achieved some brilliant results in Europe culminating in their qualification for the group stages of the Europa League.

Before that they defeated a much fancied BATE Borisov side in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

They finished the tie off with a 3-0 hammering in the second-leg against the Belarusian champions but Towell felt they outplayed their opponents in the 1-0 away loss in the first-leg.

"Even if you're playing in Europe and you know that the [opposition] team have got a bigger budget and better players on paper, going into the game you always felt, we can win this and we can win this comfortably," added Towell.

"You never thought, 'We'll try and just stay in the game until the last few minutes'.

"I remember when we went over to BATE Borisov away from home, they had a great pedigree at the time and we were massive underdogs. He just said, 'No, we're going there to win and we're going there to keep the ball'.

"As soon as we went out on the pitch after five or ten minutes we realised we were actually just as good as them. I'll never forget that game over there.

"We absolutely battered them off the park and we came in [to the dressing room] he said, 'I told you, I knew were capable of doing it but now you all need to believe in it'. I think that's what he'll bring to the Irish side."

Ireland teams in recent years have been criticised for being too cautious and focusing on keeping opposition teams out while trying to nick a winning goal.

Towell is certain that will change under the new manager.

"I know with Stephen and especially with his under-21 team, it's the exact same. They'll just go for the jugular straight away.

"They'll go to win the game and they'll go to keep the ball and they'll have high intensity in their pressing.

"When they get the ball they'll want to keep it and create a lot of chances which is what every fan wants to see when they watch football."

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Dundalk Mick McCarthy Otb Am Republic Of Ireland Richie Towell Stephen Kenny

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