Shane Duffy wants ‘brilliant’ Stephen Kenny to remain as Republic of Ireland manager

Republic of Ireland extended their unbeaten run to five games with a goalless draw against Portugal; Shane Duffy wants manager Stephen Kenny to be given a new contract; Duffy: "There's a difference in the football we're playing. Fans are excited about it"

Shane Duffy
Image: Shane Duffy says the Republic of Ireland are moving in the right direction under Stephen Kenny

Shane Duffy delivered a ringing endorsement of Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny as his bosses prepare to sit down to discuss his future.

Kenny, who replaced Mick McCarthy at the helm in April 2020, will be out of contract next summer, but it is understood the Football Association of Ireland will make a judgement on his reign to date when they assess a World Cup qualifying campaign which draws to a close in Luxembourg on Sunday.

Ireland will not be at next year's tournament in Qatar after a disastrous start to their Group A fixtures, but Thursday night's 0-0 draw with Portugal in Dublin cemented a belief within the camp that a new-look team is making significant progress.

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Highlights of the World Cup European qualifying group A match between Republic of Ireland and Portugal

Brighton defender Duffy, who won his 50th cap on the night, said: "I think Stephen's brilliant. He had a tough start with the whole Covid [situation] and players dropping out, and that resulted in results not going our way.

"But if you don't think we're going in a positive way, you're writing the wrong stuff. We're all going in the right direction.

"There's a difference in the football we're playing. Fans are excited about it.

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Kenny felt Matt Doherty’s late goal should not have been ruled out by the referee

"For me, I think it's obvious we love playing under him. We're all fighting for him. Even during the hard situation there at the start, we were still fighting for him. That's a sign that the players want to play for a manager.

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"Every single one in there and the backroom staff as well, they're all amazing. If you went in that dressing room, everyone's happy and that's the way it is."

Live World Cup Qualifier

Such is the improvement Kenny's team has made - their heart-breaking defeat in Portugal in September is their only reverse in nine games - that the mood after a creditable draw at the Aviva Stadium, in which Cristiano Ronaldo missed one gilt-edge chance and was denied at the death by teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, was one of disappointment rather than elation.

Republic of Ireland's competitive record under Stephen Kenny
Image: Ireland's competitive record under Kenny

Asked about the atmosphere in the dressing room afterwards, Duffy, 29, said: "It wasn't ecstatic, the music wasn't blaring and that shows how far we have come."

Ireland already knew they could not qualify for the World Cup when they met up with Portugal and Serbia battling it out for top spot and automatic progression from the group.

But the point they added to their tally means they can finish third if they win in Luxembourg, who beat Azerbaijan 3-1 in Baku in their penultimate qualifier, on Sunday.

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Ireland captain Seamus Coleman says the team are adapting well to a new style of play under Kenny

Duffy said: "That's the first thing the manager said after. We all know the disappointments at the start of the group, we didn't perform well enough but we want to finish the group as strong as we can. Going to Luxembourg to win is the aim and that's what we want to do.

"In the last four, five games, we have taken a step forward, the team has grown in confidence.

"Against one of the best teams in the world, we didn't fear them - that's a sign of the confidence in the way we are playing, and it's disappointing we didn't get the ball into the back of the net."

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