Euro 2016 presented something of a renaissance for the Republic of Ireland soccer squad. Okay, nearly half the countries in Europe were at the tournament in France, but the performances against Sweden and the hosts in particular showed that the Irish could play ball.

It was definitely more pleasing on the eye and something tangible to take away from the expanded competition. 

However, the second half of Martin O'Neill's reign and Mick McCarthy's short second coming saw us regress again. It became hard to watch. Who remembers the friendly against Northern Ireland, a week out from O'Neill and Keane being shown the door.

Exactly a year later, the Irish played with some abandon against Denmark in a Euro 2020 qualifier they could not afford to lose. They rescued a draw. It's a pity they didn't show the same vigour in earlier games.

Stephen Kenny's appointment as manager of the senior side brings with it the expectation that those watching the team under his watch will look forward to the experience.

Speaking back in April after taking over from Mick McCarthy, the Tallaght native said: "Ideally I would want every schoolboy team looking at the senior international team and thinking 'that's how we want to play."

Brady heads home the goal that beat the Italians

Central to the creative spark that made Euro 2016 a relative success for Ireland was Robbie Brady. He capped it off with that goal against Italy.

Since then injuries have resulted in a somewhat stop-start career for the national team and his club Burnley. In truth, the 28-year-old hasn't been as sharp. The effects of a serious knee problem means he's not the first choice on the left side of midfield in Sean Dyche's side. He has not made Ireland squads. 

That said, Brady is keen to make the most of a pre-season, free from injury and his call-up to Stephen Kenny's squad for the Nations League games against Bulgaria and Finland. 

Speaking to the media after a training session at Abbotstown, he said: "Since the Euros, it's all been a bit stop-start for me.

"I haven't reached the heights. 

"With all the injuries, I just haven't had enough football to get me back to where I need to be. 

"This year, I've had a good pre-season. It's important that I've got a full pre-season under me. Last year I broke a couple of ribs just as the season was about to start and it felt like I was playing catch up from then on. 

"I don't want another season like last season being a bit-part player. The games are coming at a good time for me.

"Now, I'm fit. I'm sharp. I'm ready. There's a lot more to come from me."

Kenny addresses the squad on the first day of training

In assessing his international manager, Brady, more than a few times, mentioned the word passion. There have a been a few phone calls between the pair in advance of the couple of days training before the Bulgarian match, and Brady is more than convinced that the new man can bring something different to the party.

"He has reassured me of my own ability since the first phone call I had with him. And that made me happy to know he had so much detail about me. 

"He told me you're more than capable of playing at the level you've shown before. In some ways it's a fresh start for me now. I need to perform if and when I do a get a chance, let my football do the talking. The manager can judge me after that. 

"From the conversations I've had with him I know how much this means to him. He's looking to put his stamp on it, to improve results and performances, and to make the country as a whole feel good after watching us play.

"You can feel the passion in his voice and you can't be but excited after listening to that."

Follow Bulgaria v Republic of Ireland this Thursday via our live blog on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News app or listen to live commentary on RTÉ 2FM's Game On.

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