Tuesday 12 October, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm


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A welcome win - now Kenny must build momentum

Stephen Kenny celebrates Ireland's win in Baku with his players

Stephen Kenny finally got a competitive win under his belt when Ireland went to Azerbaijan on Saturday evening and came away with a 3-0 victory.

The visitors weren't perfect in Baku but they were pretty clinical, especially in a first half where Azerbaijan had more than their fair share of the ball.

Still, the clouds of doubt have not exactly been blown away.

In the RTÉ studios afterwards, Didi Hamann felt Kenny highlighting the fact that Ireland have lost just once in their last seven games was disproportionately upbeat.

"He just won his first game in 13 competitive games," Hamann gasped.

"Now to turn around and say, 'well we only lost one in the last seven' is wrong. Look at the table, they've got five points with two games to go against Luxembourg and Portugal. And you've got Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in your group."

Fair comment or a little mean spirited? Either way, you can be sure the monthly Kenny Referendum will be fervently reignited should Ireland fail to back up Saturday's win with another decent showing against Qatar.

The 2022 World Cup host nation are the unofficial sixth team in Group A, playing everyone in home and away friendlies to aid their preparation for the tournament. They've had four games in the last six weeks and failed to win any - losing 4-0 to Serbia and twice to Portugal [3-1 and 3-0], while drawing 1-1 with Luxembourg.

Last March Ireland were held to a 1-1 draw by the Qataris in Hungary having stormed out of the traps and gone ahead through James McClean. Mohammed Muntari drilled home a second-half leveller.

While Ireland were putting Azerbaijan to the sword on Saturday, Serbia were labouring to an unconvincing 1-0 win in Luxembourg which ended our very slim hopes of qualification for next year's World Cup. The victory put Serbia top of Group A, nine points ahead of Ireland with two games to go. Portugal sit one point behind Serbia with a game in hand.

Ireland are playing for pride; Kenny - though he's loath to admit it - is playing for a new contract. Every match has something on it, encapsulated by the fact that this 25,000-capacity game has nearly sold out. On Monday afternoon, the FAI said there were only about 300 tickets left.

Dead rubbers have rarely made us feel so alive

Kelleher gets his chance to shine

Caoimhin Kelleher will come in between the sticks

There won't be wholesale changes but Kenny will freshen things up in Dublin, with Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher certain to make his first senior start.

The 22-year-old made his debut as a substitute against Hungary back in June, and Kenny confirmed on Monday he'll take over from Gavin Bazunu between the sticks.

"Caoimhin is a really natural goalkeeper. He's such a terrific talent. He played 10 times for me as Under-21s manager, so I'm well aware of his qualities and he's done terrifically," said the boss.

Elsewhere, the likes of Callum Robinson and Adam Idah are likely to be given a rest. That means Troy Parrott and Chiedozie Ogbene - both substitutes on Saturday evening - could get the nod from the start while Jamie McGrath, who replaced Daryl Horgan at half-time, may also start.

We should see Will Keane make his Ireland debut too, most likely off the bench, with Jason Knight back in the fold having recovered from illness. Josh Cullen jarred his knee in Baku and is unlikely to be risked, while Horgan has an ankle niggle and will probably get the night off too.

What to expect from Qatar?

Mohammed Muntari celebrates his equaliser against Ireland

Qatar's last win came in July when they edged past El Salvador 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

They fully merited a draw against Ireland in the spring as they recovered from a slow start to play some decent football.

Tricky wideman Akram Afif and striker Almoez Ali have scored 55 goals between them for Qatar and will carry most of the threat.

Managed by former Barcelona youth coach Felix Sanchez, they're ranked 43rd in the world [Ireland are 50th] so, on paper at least, this should be a much sterner challenge than the one Ireland faced in Azerbaijan, especially when you consider the Irish haven't scored more than one goal at the Aviva since a 3-1 friendly win over New Zealand two years ago.

Still, there's confidence and more fluency in Kenny's side at the moment and they'll have a good crowd behind them. For all the chatter about the manager's capabilities, the Irish public - or at least those going to the games - seem to be very much behind their man.

Another win will further embolden his ardent backers.

What they said

Stephen Kenny (Republic of Ireland manager): "They're a very attacking team, they commit everything. They like to control a lot of games even against the better teams, so we'll have to play really well and we want to do that. We want to win at home. We want to experience that. We want the supporters to experience that."

Abdelkarim Hassan (Qatar defender): "The mistakes cost us a lot [against Portugal]. When elite teams like Portugal are your opponents, the fewer mistakes, the better. They exploited the mistakes we made. We need to evolve as a team to reach the right shape we want to be in for such matches. In general, the experience remains beneficial, and we will strive for the best in the next stage, starting with the Ireland match."

Last five results

Republic of Ireland

Azerbaijan 0-3 Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Serbia
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Azerbaijan
Portugal 2-1 Republic of Ireland
Hungary 0-0 Republic of Ireland


Portugal 3-0 Qatar
Luxembourg 1-1 Qatar
Qatar 1-3 Portugal
Qatar 0-4 Serbia
Qatar 0-1 USA

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Follow Republic of Ireland v Qatar via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.