Stephen Kenny admitted that some of his players are "undercooked" ahead of Ireland's vital World Cup qualifier against Serbia on Wednesday evening.

Aaron Connolly and James McClean have been nursing injuries coming into the game, while others like Callum Robinson are lacking game time ahead of the vital group opener. 

Having said that, the manager is buoyed by the fact that everyone has reported in fit and ready for duty, while there have been no issues with the coronavirus as all players produced negative Covid tests. 

Ireland, of course, have not played at the World Cup since 2002, with the manager noting that certain players were still very much in their infancy, while others will have childhood memories of the tournament, and will want to replicate the experience. 

While this particular campaign is a short, six-month, eight-game series ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar, Kenny said it was more important to look at the short-term picture, beginning in Belgrade, followed up with a home tie on Saturday against Luxembourg. 

"We're looking forward to it, really. It's a tough first game in Serbia, of course, before we play Luxembourg," said Kenny, speaking at today’s pre-match press conference. "The players, their attitude has been brilliant, they're all excited themselves. 

"It's interesting because some of the players, Troy Parrott and Gavin Bazunu, were born in the same year as we last got to the World Cup, Jason Knight was only one when we got to the World Cup. 

"Then obviously you have players who are 30 years of age, 31 who really want to give it everything to try to get to a World Cup. 

"But we're not just looking at the big picture at the minute, we've got to focus on the short term and the task at hand and facing Serbia." 

And while there is a clean bill of health, not counting the seven previously ruled out, the manager added insight regarding the players who are returning from injury, like McClean who was nursing a foot problem, and Connolly who is recovering from a cracked rib. 

"I suppose they're different kinds of issues really. They're both undercooked, if you like. 

"James obviously had an issue with his heel and was recovering from an injection and was off it for a while, so he wasn't very advanced in his training programme, he hadn't done too much. 

"James has incredible determination to play for Ireland, I think that's obvious, so he trained yesterday and is super-keen, as he always is. He looks in brilliant physical condition, but obviously he's not done too much of late. 

"Aaron, again, is a little bit undercooked. He hasn't played in a while, had the rib injury, couldn't train and has come in on the back of just probably three days' training, so he's a little bit undercooked, but trained yesterday. He did some finishing." 

And while the players may be "undercooked", the manager was then asked, if he was the type of person in a restaurant who would be happy to order his steak rare from the menu, which brought a smile to Kenny’s face. 

"Yeah, sometimes," said the manager.

"That's just where we are with some players. Ideally, you’d want all your attacking players playing every week and scoring for their clubs and so forth.

"But you have to adapt, and players are really excited about the possibility of playing for their country in the World Cup qualifier. That’s a huge ambition for them and it’s a great opportunity." 

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