Stephen Kenny named two fresh faces in his Republic of Ireland squad on Wednesday, both full of pace and versatile enough to operate across a variety of positions.

And if the inclusion CJ Hamilton and Festy Ebosele - plus the return of Michael Obafemi - underlined the direction Kenny sees his team going over the next couple of years, the absence of Aaron Connolly is a reminder that this train is moving fast.

Not so long ago the Galway attacker was viewed as a crucial outlet in the top third; now he's got work to do make it back into the squad.

Kenny said Connolly was left out due to a long-standing heel problem, though the boss also conceded his loan move to Middlesbrough from Brighton last January wasn't as successful as all parties would have hoped.

"Aaron doesn't feel right himself. He feels the heel in which he has been getting injections to play has been causing him a lot of discomfort.

"He has had a loan period. When you talk to people in England when you're going around the clubs, a lot of coaches, they say to disregard a player’s first loan. That’s a saying they have.

"They say most first loans are not always successful. He played a lot of games for Middlesbrough and that was a good experience for him, and I’m sure if he has another loan move he will be better for it."

Conversely Obafemi (above) - who has excelled at Swansea over the last few months - earned plenty of praise for his renaissance. The 21-year-old looks certain to add to his sole Irish cap in June when Ireland play four Nations League games in ten days - against Armenia, Scotland and Ukraine twice.

"I've been to Swansea a few times, obviously, because we have Michael there and Cyrus Christie and Ryan Manning playing together," Kenny added.

"It's the first time in Michael's career that he's had a run of consecutive games. It's very hard for young players in the Premier League to get that, just the standard is so high and the squads are so big, so the move to Swansea, which is a great club and a great platform to do well in the Championship, you can see the improvement in his play.

"His hold-up play has really come on well and he's shown great football intelligence allied to the natural speed that his got.

"The performances I've seen recently with Swansea are better than I've ever seen from him, so his rate of improvement has been very high.

"I've had a few meetings with Michael. Listen, if everyone was the same, life would be dull. Michael is a charismatic guy and I know he's very proud to play for Ireland and he's excited about coming in.

"He's speaking about family coming to Ireland for the games and so forth, so he's looking forward to it."

And what of the new men?

Hamilton (above) qualifies to represent Ireland through his mother, and spent a lot of his childhood living in Waterford. He's a quick, direct, left-footed threat.

"CJ was someone that I had little information on, to be honest," said Kenny. "He lived his first 14 years at Waterford and played in the Kennedy Cup for Waterford, but then he went to England.

"He came really the road less travelled, coming through the Conference in England for a couple of years and up through League Two and League One and into the Championship - a very interesting journey.

"Obviously he's a very, very quick left winger with a lot of pace. He plays on the right as well, he can play on either wing for Blackpool. He has a very good attitude and he's made a good contribution."

Interestingly Ebosele (below) was listed among the forwards when the squad was released.

He's on his way to Serie A club Udinese this summer having turned a lot of heads with Derby County as a marauding attacking full-back.

"I really see him as a right-winger," Kenny said. "He can play right wing-back and that was a factor in his selection. Seamus Coleman missed the game against Arsenal last weekend with a groin issue and we need to make sure we are covered in that area, with Cyrus Christie, and we have other players who can play there.

"Festy is another player who gives us an attacking option. I don't necessarily see him as a defender, but wing-back isn’t necessarily a defensive position depending on who you’re playing. He can come from deep and be effective as a wing-back. Not every game he has played has been perfect, he’s still learning, but his speed really frightens players.

"I see the pitch being big in these games, against Ukraine and Scotland nobody is going to sit in. I think the games will be really stretched. Even Armenia are not a team to sit in at all. They have quite an attacking set-up. I can’t see any of the games with a low block, so the games will be stretched and quite open."

The Nations League offers Kenny a big opportunity to really hammer home the sense that things are coming together for Ireland.

The will have 18 days in camp; a rare luxury for the manager who usually has to get his ideas across in two or three-day bursts.

Kenny loves fast, skillful wide players who can bounce off a strong frontman. With Adam Idah injured, Obafemi could get his chance in that position (his form greatly improved at Swansea when Russell Martin started playing him through the middle), while Hamilton and Ebosele will hope to make the sort of impact Chiedozie Ogbene did when he got a shot in the wider areas.

It all makes for some interesting selection calls - and could make Connolly's climb back into the fold even steeper.

UEFA Nations League fixtures

Saturday 4 June: Armenia v Republic of Ireland, Republic Stadium Yerevan, 2pm

Wednesday 8 June: Republic of Ireland v Ukraine, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm

Saturday 11 June: Republic of Ireland v Scotland, Aviva Stadium, 5pm

Tuesday 14 June: Ukraine v Republic of Ireland, ŁKS stadium, 7.45pm

Republic of Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth).

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie (Fulham), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Ryan Manning (Swansea City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion), John Egan (Sheffield United), Nathan Collins (Burnley), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jason Knight (Derby County).

Forwards: Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), Scott Hogan (Birmingham City), Will Keane (Wigan Athletic), Michael Obafemi (Swansea City), Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United), CJ Hamilton (Blackpool), Festy Ebosele (Derby County).

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