Kenny Cunningham believes Stephen Kenny will likely lean on his experienced heads for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia. 

Three days after a Shane Duffy header was required to rescue a point in Sofia, Ireland suffered a 1-0 loss against Finland in the manager's first home game in charge, marking the only time an Irish team have lost to the Finns in senior international football.

With Ireland apparently struggling to adjust to the demands of a more ambitious style of play, the crucial Euro 2020 qualifier away to Slovakia looms ahead in a month's time. 

While the new manager has been quick to toss young players like Adam Idah and Jayson Molumby into the mix, ex-Ireland captain Cunningham believes he will turn to his more experienced crew in Bratislava next month. 

"I think Stephen will lean on his more experienced players for the game in Slovakia," Cunningham told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1.  

"It was a great opportunity to look at the likes of Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah, Callum O'Dowda, even Jayson Molumby last night. But my gut feeling tells me that for the Slovakia game the likes of James McClean, Callum Robinson and even David McGoldrick will come back into the reckoning. 

Stephen Kenny and Keith Andrews during Ireland's 1-0 loss to Finland

"Likewise, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick will probably come back in midfield. So that more experienced spine will certainly help the team." 

While Ireland's possession stats have certainly been puffed up in the last couple of outings, the past 180 minutes have yielded one goal, another Shane Duffy header from a set-piece and gilt-edged chances remain few and far between. 

However, Cunningham insists this aspect of Ireland's game will take time to improve. Rather, it is the team's defensive shape that worries the former centre-half ahead of the critical play-off match in Slovakia.

Ireland's rearguard, previously protected by a more defensively-focused midfield, looked vulnerable against both Bulgaria and Finland. 

"I thought Finland were the more cohesive side, in and out of possession. 

"We had a good spell after we went behind and created a couple of very good chances - Callum Robinson after a great ball from Matt Doherty and David McGoldrick after a high squeeze up the pitch - but they looked very threatening as well, the Finns, even on the counter attack and had some good opportunities. 

"They passed the ball a bit better, looked more comfortable in their system which is probably understandable. 

"But my biggest concern would be the defensive shape of the team. We've looked a bit open the last couple of games. Bulgaria hurt us on the counter attack and Finland caused us more than a few problems. I'm not just talking about the back four here, the midfield defensive shield needs to be a bit better. 

Fredrik Jensen slides home the winning goal for Finland

"If we can get that right for the game against Slovakia, I fancy our chances to go and win the game. But if we're as loose as we've been in the last couple of games in terms of giving up chances, and we need to score two or three goals to get through, then that's going to be difficult. 

"I'm not expecting everything to be perfect in terms of our passing game in Slovakia. That's going to take some time. We're going to have to be patient.

"But it's the defensive side to our game which is absolutely key in Slovakia. That's where we need to tighten up and become more secure. If we do that, I fancy our chances of going to Slovakia and getting a result that we all want."