The Republic of Ireland's opening Nations League matches against Bulgaria and Finland gave Stephen Kenny "some food for thought" as he looks ahead to the "bigger picture" of their Euro 2020 play-off.

In Kenny's first two games as manager, Ireland drew in Bulgaria with a late Shane Duffy equaliser on Thursday and then lost 1-0 at home to Finland on Sunday.

But while frustrated not to take the three points in Dublin after a series of misses in the closing stages - including another Duffy header - Kenny's focus was already on a vital meeting with Slovakia.

Ireland must come through that fixture next month and then a subsequent play-off final to qualify for the European Championship in 2021.

For that reason, the Ireland boss was willing to name experimental line-ups – he changed his entire midfield for the meeting with Finland – in a bid to find his best side.

"We wanted to win - my first game at home, of course we wanted to win - but, for us, there's a bigger picture. That's Slovakia." Kenny explained to Sky Sports.

"We were a bit experimental in the games, I think that's evident. We want players to really put their hands up and put themselves in the picture for Slovakia.

"We need to increase our attacking options, for sure, for the game against Slovakia.

"We wanted to do that and some players did quite well. That gives us some food for thought for the game next month."

Having struggled to break Finland down before the break, Ireland preyed on the visitors' sloppiness at the back to muster big second-half chances.

They could not take their opportunities, however, and Kenny reflected: "We probably had four or five really good chances today.

"When you get them, you have to take them. It's as simple as that. We're disappointed, obviously, to lose the game."

Stephen Kenny acknowledged his Republic of Ireland side have plenty to improve upon after an indifferent showing in the Nations League clash with Bulgaria.

Shane Duffy's last-gasp header secured a 1-1 draw in Sofia on Thursday, with Bozhidar Kraev having opened the scoring for the hosts.

It was Kenny's first match in charge, with the former Dundalk manager – who took over from Mick McCarthy as planned earlier this year – naming an inexperienced line-up.

And though Kenny took the positives from a performance which came after just three days of training, he understands his side have lots of work ahead of them.

"Certainly it was a match we'd have liked to win, for sure," Kenny said in an interview posted to Ireland's official Twitter account.

"There was some good play, no doubt, but there's room for improvement still. We learned quite a few things and we hope to improve. We showed resilience but plenty to work on.

"There was a lot of good play in the game, we couldn't capitalise on the chances we had. We knew Bulgaria are difficult to break down and they're a good counter-attacking team.

"With the late equaliser, you're hoping it's a point gained. It's a great goal, a terrific header from Shane Duffy and Robbie Brady's brilliant delivery from the corner kick.

"There's no way we deserved to lose the game and we were well capable of winning it. It was our first game after just three days training, so it's important we get ourselves ready for Finland on Sunday.

"The players gave everything tonight. A lot of them are still in pre-season, Bulgaria have played eight games already. 

"It's a quick turnaround but we’re not complaining, it's a good opportunity. There were a lot of good points and some areas to improve."

Duffy – who captained Ireland with Seamus Coleman left on the bench – echoed his manager's sentiments.

"Disappointed, probably. Being realistic, it's most of our lads' first games, it's been a couple of days under the new manager trying to get used to it," he said.

"A few sloppy moments, personally for the goal as well. The positives – never-give-up attitude and going until the end. It's important we didn't lose it but there's lots to improve.

"They were dangerous when we were sloppy, they punished us. We've only had a couple of days training, it's like a pre-season game for most of us. It was tough."

Stephen Kenny's first game in charge of the Republic of Ireland ended in dramatic fashion as Shane Duffy salvaged a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria in the Nations League.

Having replaced Mick McCarthy, former Dundalk boss Kenny insisted his side would set out to implement a new style in Sofia in their opening Nations League Group B4 match, though Bozhidar Kraev's effort looked set to prove decisive.

Kraev's goal came shortly after Ireland had registered their first shot on target through Aaron Connolly in the 52nd minute.

Yet some late pressure finally told in the third minute of added time – Duffy, wearing the captain's armband with Seamus Coleman on the bench, powering in an excellent header from Robbie Brady's corner to snatch a point.

Stephen Kenny has replaced Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland manager, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) announced on Saturday.

The former Dundalk boss was primed to take the helm after Euro 2020, but the postponement of that tournament to next year amid the coronavirus pandemic has forced the FAI's hand.

Ireland face Slovakia in the play-offs for the continental competition, but that tie is also subject to an indefinite delay.

McCarthy, whose contract was due to expire on July 31, has therefore stepped aside early, with Under-21s boss Kenny officially taking on the role earlier than his previous start date of August 1.

"The Football Association of Ireland announces that Mick McCarthy is to be succeeded as national team manager by Stephen Kenny with immediate effect," read a statement from the governing body.

"The handover has been agreed with both men in light of the delay to the European Championship play-offs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mick McCarthy's contract was due to expire on July 31 after the UEFA Euro 2020 finals, with Stephen initially scheduled to step up from his Under-21 team role on August 1.

"This move allows Stephen Kenny time to plan for the European Championship play-off semi-final against Slovakia later in the year."

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