Stephen Kenny targets best victory yet as Republic of Ireland face Netherlands

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny is targeting his best victory yet as he prepares for a must-win Euro 2024 qualifier against the Netherlands.

The game in Dublin appears to be a make-or break affair for Ireland, who have collected just three points from their first four Group B fixtures and will effectively be out of the race for qualification if they lose to the Dutch.

Memories of a famous Irish victory over the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifier in 2001 have inevitably come to the fore in recent days, but Kenny is reluctant to compare his team to the one in which Shay Given, Roy Keane, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane played.

Kenny said: “We’re not comparing ourselves to the team of 2001, they had some of the best players to ever play for Ireland.

“We’re an emerging team. We’ve shown a capacity to raise our game in front of our own support, our impassioned support and we’ve put in some very good performances at home there.

“It’s a game that will challenge us. Holland have players of the highest calibre, players with the top clubs.

“We’ve gone toe-to-toe with some of the best teams and we must raise our game and get our best victory yet as a team. That’s what we’d have to do and that’s the challenge for us.

Enda Stevens (left) in action
Enda Stevens (left) is ruled out for Ireland (Adam Davy/PA)

“We’ll need the supporters to help us do that, we need that energy in the ground. We need that high-octane support to be really passionate and get behind the team and give the players energy.

“All their physical stats are very high after Paris in the heat, a tough game, so to go again, we’ll need everyone to really fire.”

Ireland finalised their preparations at a sunny Abbotstown on Saturday after recovering from Thursday night’s energy-sapping 2-0 defeat in France.

Defender Enda Stevens and forward Will Keane are out of the game through injury and strikers Sinclair Armstrong and Jonathan Afolabi have been drafted into the squad.

Whatever team Kenny picks, the players will know the stakes could hardly be higher with failure simply not an option.

Kenny said: “We know a victory is important for us, we know how important it is, that’s where it is. We’ll prepare well – as well as we can after just coming back on Thursday night – and make sure we’re ready.

“The players are clear on how we’re going to play and we’ll certainly be tested against this team. We’ll have to match them and we are capable of doing that and we have to show the belief and conviction to try to get the win that we need.”

Jonathan Afolabi in action for the Republic of Ireland Under-21
Jonathan Afolabi has been called up (Martin Rickett/PA)

Defender Shane Duffy, who made his first international appearance since June last year in the game at the Parc des Princes, is a veteran of the 1-0 Euro 2016 victory over Italy and knows he and his team-mates need to summon up a similar spirit to get what they need against the Dutch.

Duffy said: “It’s a huge game. Something we’ve to all thrive off and make it another special night as it’s more memories we can create.

“I think personally the games, they’re memories that I talk about to my children, big nights for your country. It’s another chance for us to make it another special night at the Aviva and make more memories.”