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5 things we learned from the Republic of Ireland friendly double header

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny is set to finalize his Euro 2024 qualifying plans after a few more days of testing.

A home defeat against Norway and a narrow win in Malta showed some of his side’s strengths, but also weaknesses.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what we’ve learned from Ireland’s recent friendlies.

Kenny had hoped to use November’s friendlies to sharpen his side for the opening qualifier against France in March, but how useful both games were is debatable.

The French won’t sit low and invite Ireland to break them, but that might be a relief. The Republic was too cautious and sluggish at times in both games and frustrated for a long time.

They will have to defend much more resiliently than in Malta in particular and will see a lot less ball, but they will have more room to act when they have it.

Irish sides are traditionally built around solid defence, but Kenny was keen to take a more expansive approach.

His confidence in his approach and belief in the new generation of players he has created are commendable.

But he was saddened by the two goals they conceded from set pieces against Norway and was delighted by the goal in Malta, suggesting he’s tempering his perceived idealism with pragmatism, having won just eight of his 30 games.

There has been a changing of the guard within the squad since Kenny replaced Mick McCarthy at the helm in April 2020.

The likes of Gavin Bazunu, Nathan Collins, Dara O’Shea, Josh Cullen, Jayson Molumby, Chiedozie Ogbene and Michael Obafemi have established themselves, along with Andrew Omobamidele, Jason Knight, Troy Parrott and Adam Idah, all of whom were unavailable for this camp .

However, one-time talisman Shane Duffy has been notable in his absence as Norway have benefited from weak defences, and if he can force his way into the Fulham side where he is currently on loan from Brighton his flying skills could prove in both penalty areas as prove invaluable.

Burnley’s Josh Cullen has assumed the pivotal role with aplomb, but there are places to be gained around him.

Alan Browne brings drive and purpose, Molumby industry and energy and Jeff Hendrick brings vast experience.

However, Jamie McGrath’s performance in his first appearance for his country in a year against Malta drew attention and a man who played for Dundalk under Kenny is hoping sustained form at Dundee United could see him win the bid.

When Parrott and Obafemi came together so well in June’s 3-0 Nations League win over Scotland, it seemed that Republic had found their first two. But at 20 or 22, both are still learning their trade.

In Parrott’s absence, Callum Robinson assisted Obafemi against Norway and Ogbene in Malta, helping him score his eighth international goal for the senior team in the second game.

All four, plus Idah and 18-year-old Evan Ferguson – who made his debut against Norway – have their strengths, but finding the right mix is ​​perhaps Kenny’s greatest challenge.

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