Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny salutes Ukraine President's decision to allow team to play

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has saluted Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky' decision to let the national team play football

Stephen Kenny has saluted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky's decision to allow the national team play its forthcoming fixtures amid the "tragedy" of the ongoing Russian invasion.

Ukraine head for Scotland for their rescheduled World Cup play-off on June 1 and a week later, will face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in the Nations League before the sides meet in the return fixture in Lodz, Poland on June 14.

Ireland boss Kenny is well aware of the significance of the games in which his team will be involved and welcomed the decision to go ahead despite the situation.

He said: "It is a tragedy. Russia has invaded Ukraine, it's a war. The game was supposed to be in Kyiv then was moved to Lviv, now it's moved to Poland. The fact that it's happening at all is a miracle.

"The home game - in 50 years' time that will be a significant game in Irish football history because Russia has invaded, thousands have died, thousands more will die.

"We have seen the situation where Ukrainian people from Ireland have gone into Ukraine to defend their nation and have died, we have seen that situation.

"The president had decided to let the Ukraine national team represent the country, and he's right. People can get fatigued and switch off the war, but Ukraine playing highlights that.

"This game is a significant game in modern history. Ukraine's game with Scotland and their game with Ireland, for us as a nation it's a significant game in our football history."

The Republic will launch their League B campaign against Armenia in Yerevan on June 4, and will also face Scotland in Dublin in between the two Ukraine fixtures in a series of games they will treat as a tournament.

Kenny said: "Most people, neutral observers, would see us as third favourites, behind Ukraine and Scotland and ahead of Armenia.

"We'd love to win the group, that would be our ambition. We know that if we could achieve that, it would give us a second seeding for the European Championships, we know that would get us promoted to the A League in the Nations League, the real top table where every country aspires to be."