Kenny Cunningham's very optimistic about Ireland's hopes of getting to World Cup 2018

Ex-Ireland defender excited about the new spine to the Boys in Green

Kenny Cunningham believes Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup are brighter after Euro 2016. 

Despite the spectre of retirements, Ireland have stumbled upon a core of players in their mid-20s who performed well including Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick.

Speaking to Off The Ball, Kenny outlined how impressed he was by those two and others who will form the spine of the next team.

"I'm far more confident and optimistic going into them World Cup qualifiers than I was a couple of weeks ago. I've real confidence in the players now with the experience that they've had," he said.

"They've really grown and improved collectively as a group but also individually as players so they're only going to reap the benefits of that going forward and I think we're in great shape, albeit with one or two withdrawals from the squad [through] retirements. I think we're in really great shape going into those World Cup qualifiers in September and I can't wait."

Kenny also added that a clear vision and philosophy of play is taking shape, while he also hit out at some of the media criticism of James McCarthy.

"James McCarthy [got] a huge amount of criticism. I don't understand why. It was very highly unfair in certain quarters of the media. But he showed a huge amount of character in that last game and played that holding role fantastically well and gave a real balance to the team," he said.