At the twelfth time of asking, Stephen Kenny should secure his first victory as Ireland manager as his side takes on Andorra this evening.

Eleven games without a win, the Ireland boss could not be handed an easier assignment as the season winds down with a final double-header before the summer break.

In reality, the game (live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player) deserves nothing more than a couple of column inches, with a much more interesting contest to come on Tuesday night, as Ireland take on Hungary – a side who have qualified for this summer's Euros.

But with the new manager in desperate need of a victory, and still trying to get over the disappointment of a World Cup qualifying home defeat against Luxembourg, not to mention the fact that his side have only averaged 0.36 goals per game, it is no wonder that there is great intrigue in this fixture.

When facing the world’s 158th-ranked side, the expectation is that a facile victory should follow, and in normal circumstances, the game would be seen as nothing more than a confidence booster ahead of the second game of the window.

Yet from one end of the Iberian peninsula to the other, Kenny might ponder that night in Gibraltar when Mick McCarthy’s perceived glorious return almost came a cropper at the first time of asking, before eventually squeezing past Gibraltar 1-0 in the shadow of the Rock.

The Ireland squad have been training together in the warm Spanish sunshine since last Friday and it is the first time that the manager has had a chance to work with his squad on the training pitch since his maiden competitive outing last September.

It is also the first camp where the narrative has not been driven by the global pandemic, which has had a significant effect on several Irish matches since Kenny took charge.

So everything is in place for a comfortable victory, playing the Kenny way, in what should turn out to be that aforementioned confidence booster ahead of Tuesday’s game in Budapest.

There are key players missing from the Ireland squad ahead of the double-header, however, the manager has a strong squad to choose from for today’s game.

Seamus Coleman is the only member of the remaining travelling squad who is not in contention to play in Andorra, as Sammie Szmodics returned home following the reoccurrence of a shoulder injury in camp.


The tale of goal-shy Ireland's winless streak


The manager has brought more youth into the squad, which is already largely inexperienced, yet one of the benefits of all the disruptions over the past nine months is that many young players have been blooded in competitive action, and most have looked quite comfortable at the level.

There may be experimentation in this game against Andorra, but you must imagine that the manager will send out his strongest eleven to start the game and ideally open up a commanding lead to put the result beyond doubt.

The goalkeeping decision will be an interesting one with Gavin Bazunu and Caoimhin Kelleher both competing for that number one jersey in the absence of Darren Randolph.

And Kenny should stick with the younger of the talented duo, as Bazunu looked confident and controlled in the last two games and was possibly the only positive to take from that disappointing night in Dublin against Luxembourg.

Expect the Irish defence to play a high line with the wide men pushing right up the pitch and this should bring the best out of quality players like Matt Doherty, while James McClean could be asked to play the left wing-back role, or even at left-back if the manager opts for a four-man defence.

Interesting to see that the Derry native was named among the defenders in the FAI press release ahead of the game, so it looks as though McClean’s days as an emergency striker are numbered.

The midfield will see real competition for places even with key players missing and it is one area where the manager must feel he has plenty of viable options.

Josh Cullen might be all the cover that the defence needs in a game where the Irish side should be on the front foot throughout, which will allow players like Jayson Molumby or Jason Knight free rein to bomb forward at will.

Harry Arter has yet to have a chance to really show the manager what he can do as a result of missing several matches through injury, however, Kenny spoke highly of the Nottingham Forest midfielder early in his tenure and he will be equally keen to see Arter play in his system.

Conor Hourihane was signalled out for special praise by the manager for his willingness to come to camp as soon as the Championship play-off was over at the weekend, while his loan move from Villa was also seen as a positive for a player who put a real focus on first-team football.

And the Cork native suggested that more of the squad should be following his lead, as well as players like Josh Cullen, who have taken alternative options to stay playing regular football.

"I think it's so important for younger lads, and even older lads like myself, to be match fit, to be playing," said Hourihane at the pre-match press conference.

"I don't think enough Irish lads over the years play regularly enough."

But goals are the priority in this game and while the return has been poor - four goals in eleven games - the manager has called on natural goalscorers like James Collins, Troy Parrott and Adam Idah for this game.

Hourihane gave an insight as to what the team have been working on in terms of increasing the tally, yet he emphasised that goals need to come from all over the pitch.

"There have just been more training sessions, more detail, more work as a team on our strengths, what we need to improve on, and just a general mix of all different types of bits and pieces.

"Everything probably at the minute for us needs to get better to win games of football.

"There have been times over the last few days, since I joined anyway, where we’ve been working on improving all aspects of our game to become stronger and better.

"Hopefully that will show over the next two games and show that we’ve been working on the right things and we can become better as a team."

As for the result, Kenny would not give the media the satisfaction of calling it a must-win game or admitting that he was under pressure ahead of the match, however, he did say that it is a game that he expects to win, and hopes that once the victory does come, it will start a winning habit ahead of September’s World Cup qualifiers.

"Of course, we want to win and we expect to win," said Kenny. "[But] you never take anything for granted. Nobody gives you anything, you have to earn the right to win.

"Andorra are set up that they don't concede too many chances in the recent window of matches.

"I feel a bit disappointed that we haven’t won in the last few games, for sure, and we want to go back to winning ways and make a habit of winning, and I think that’s important.

"But our expectation is that we'll win, and this is clearly our objective."

Follow Andorra v Ireland (Thursday, 5pm) via our live blog on RTE.ie and the RTÉ News app or watch on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.