Kenny says leaving Whelan and Byrne out "tough decisions"
"No matter who's the manager, he always played Glenn."
Irish manager Stephen Kenny described the decision to leave veteran midfielder Glenn Whelan and Shamrock Rovers' Jack Byrne out of his first squad as "tough decisions".
Kenny named a 23-man squad to face Bulgaria and Finland in the Nations League next month on Monday, and while there were first Senior call-ups for the likes of Adam Idah and Jayson Molumby, as well as returns for Harry Arter, Shane Long and James McCarthy, both Whelan and Byrne were conspicuous by their absence.
Both Byrne and Whelan made the Irish squad for their last competitive outing against Denmark in November last year, with Whelan starting that game as Ireland fell agonisingly short of automatic qualification for EURO 2020.
Speaking at the squad announcement on Monday, Ireland boss Stephen Kenny noted the pair were among a number of midfielders dropped from the squad;
"We had four midfield players who were omitted, which were Glenn Whelan, Alan Judge, Josh Cullen and Jack Byrne. So the four players are tough decisions, they all have a lot to give."
In reference to Whelan, Kenny pointed to his longevity in the squad and his high number of appearances as a mark of his quality;
"Glenn's 92 caps, you have to earn every single one of those, and through a succession of managers, no matter who's the manager, he always played Glenn.
"So that tells you something about him. So, I think just on this occasion, he wasn't selected."
Jack Byrne's omission means there is no current League of Ireland player in Kenny's squad, something he says was not relevant to his selection;
"I pick whatever I think is right. I think Jack Byrne... I really rate him actually, he's a terrific passer. He's really a joy to watch.
"He's definitely on standby, and he's one who could feature again very shortly."
Kenny's Ireland managerial career will kick off against Bulgaria in Sofia on 3 September, before they welcome Finland to the Aviva Stadium three days later.