Kenny’s Ireland drawn in tough Nations League group
Ireland Manager Stephen Kemmy

Kenny’s Ireland drawn in tough Nations League group

Ukraine, Scotland and Armenia will provide the opposition to the Republic of Ireland men’s national team in UEFA Nations League B Group One after the draw for the competition was completed earlier today.

Following an encouraging end to their FIFA World Cup qualification campaign – seven points from their final three games helping them to finish third in their group table – Tallaght man Stephen Kenny will be aiming to build further momentum with his side in 2022.

The fact that his contract with the FAI as senior men’s boss runs out before the Nations League group stages come to an end does complicate matters, but there are reports that Kenny is to be offered a new contract that will bring him up to the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

While the Boys In Green can expect six tough games over the course of the campaign, there is no reason why they can’t push for promotion to League A for the 2024/25 season.

To date, Ireland have failed to pick a single win from their 10 games in the Nations League – covering the tenures of Kenny and Martin O’Neill – but there is a sense that their luck may finally be changing for the better.

The Republic last faced Armenia during the qualification phase for the 2012 European Championships.

A goal from former St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers midfielder Keith Fahey earned them a 1-0 victory in Yerevan, while Tallaght’s Richard Dunne found the net in a 2-1 success for Ireland at Lansdowne Road on 11 October, 2011.

Future Manchester United and Arsenal attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan found the net for the Armenians on that occasion and he remains their most recognisable star.

They will head into 2022 on the back of a difficult run of form, however, with a run of nine games without a win seeing them dropping to 92nd in the FIFA world rankings.

Before embarking on their Nations League odyssey, Ukraine and Scotland will face each other in a one-legged semi-final play-off for next year’s World Cup on 24 March, 2022. The winners of that game will then progress to face the winners of another last-four encounter between Wales and Austria.

Ukraine finished second in Group D of the World Cup qualifiers with a peculiar record of two wins, six draws and zero defeats from eight games.

This included a brace of stalemates with reigning champions France, which gives an indication of how difficult they are to break down.

Last summer saw Scotland competing in a major tournament final for the first time in 23 years and their resurgence is continuing under Steve Clarke.

Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) and Billy Gilmour (on loan at Norwich, but a Chelsea player) are all members of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ and both legs of their meetings with Ireland are expected to be spicy affairs.

Although the fixture list is yet to be officially compiled, Nations League B gets underway on 2 June and will conclude on 27 September.

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