Kenny insists future is bright despite "kick in the teeth" from Luxembourg

Stephen Kenny says he remains determined as ever to be success as Republic of Ireland manager.  His...

Kenny insists future is bright...


Kenny insists future is bright despite "kick in the teeth" from Luxembourg

Stephen Kenny says he remains determined as ever to be success as Republic of Ireland manager. 

His first eleven games in charge produced zero wins, and Saturday night's World Cup qualifier defeat to Luxembourg has been the nadir.

It's led some to question whether Kenny should even continue in the job beyond this week.

Speaking at the FAI EGM at the weekend, independent chair Roy Barrett stated his personal support for Kenny, saying, "One game isn't going to throw everything up in the air and shouldn't.

"There's no doubt this has been a difficult year for Stephen, his team, and the team itself and everything that's been thrown at them."

Next up for Kenny is a friendly meeting with World Cup hosts Qatar on Tuesday night, in the Hungarian city of Debrecen.

"I'm very determined that we will improve and get it right," the boss said on Monday.

"We've just had a real kick in the teeth losing to Luxembourg, and I understand that World Cup points are so sought-after and hard-earned.

"It would be too easy for me to say we'll have long-term success with this, but what I will say is that a lot of those players coming through are very talented.

"[There's been] some suggestion that they'll all end [up] back playing in Ireland and they're not that talented. All those players that have come in - Jason Knight, Dara O'Shea, Jayson Molumby, Aaron Connolly, Caoimhin Kelleher, Gavin Bazunu... they will all have great/good careers at the top level.

"They are going to be good players for Ireland in the future, and they are talented players.

"And you will see them blossom, and other players like Troy Parrott as well, and players that I haven't even mentioned - the Adam Idahs, Nathan [Collins].

"We've got a whole lot of players coming through, and I think that's a real positive.

"But I do think it's not just long-term, I do think we can be good in this campaign. We were very good against Serbia, we just let ourselves down by not capitalising on the situations that we had the other night against Luxembourg."

Opportunities lost

Kenny was asked to expand on why things went so badly wrong against Luxembourg.

For the former Dundalk and Dunfermline manager, he felt the system he started with on Saturday night was the right call, even if the game subsequently showed otherwise.

"We played 3-4-1-2 against Serbia, and I thought it worked brilliantly in fact," Kenny told Tuesday's press conference.

"I thought it was probably one of the best displays by an Irish team away from home in recent years.

"We played very well, lost a narrow game, obviously we made one or two mistakes and got punished in the end which overall we were very disappointed with. But our overall display was excellent.

"Against Luxembourg, again, we've dominated a lot of possession but obviously in the final third we had a lot of situations 4v3 where we could overload and maximise the final situation in the final third, and we didn't do that.

"Having looked back on the game, and reflected on it, we did a lot of good things in the game but we didn't capitalise on the opportunities we had in the final third.

"And that was the disappointing aspect of it, because we didn't create enough clear-cut chances. James Collins had a great opportunity that we thought was in... Shane Long had two chances - had a header and a chance through.

"Robbie Brady gave us good delivery... Alan Browne had a free header and James Collins had the overhead kick. But we didn't create enough clear-cut chances for the possession that we had, and that was an issue for us.

"Looking back on it, we definitely didn't deserve to lose the game. They've only had one chance in the game, and a shot from outside the box.

"We definitely didn't deserve to lose the game, we had the lion's share [of possession]. Admittedly, you shouldn't be losing - it's a home game against Luxembourg and you're expected to win, and I respect that.

"But we definitely didn't deserve to lose that game, for sure, even though we must do better. There's no doubt about it, we must do better about our creativity in the final third."

Slings and arrows 

Former internationals haven't been shy about giving their opinion on the Kenny era over the past 48-hours.

Paul McGrath wrote that Kenny should be fired and potentially replaced by ex-Celtic boss Neil Lennon. While Phil Babb told Sky Sports that it may be time for the FAI to look elsewhere.

Kenny's taking the criticism on the chin, "I knew when I took the job that that's where we're at," he said "If you lose to Luxembourg, you have to accept the criticism. I'm not naive in that regard.

"Looking over the way we played... Scotland, for example, have beaten Israel on penalty kicks, and then Serbia on penalty kicks to go through [to Euro 2020].

"We lost on penalty kicks to go out against Slovakia away in a really top-class performance.

"In the game against Serbia, we showed what we're made of, we lost 3-2.

"The big let-down for us has been losing to Luxembourg. We've introduced thirteen young players into the squad, incorporating them with some of the senior players that have been in the squad.

"We wanted to go to Spain for nine days in June - which we are - to work on the whole collective way we want to play, and to work on the spirit of integrating all the players in. And we wanted to ramp that up.

"We've friendlies against Andorra and Hungary in June, and that's what we wanted to do and bring that into September.

"But the big let-down has been losing to Luxembourg."

He added, "Luxembourg have drawn with France, and France went on to win the World Cup. They've beaten other countries - it's not the Luxembourg of old.

"We can't be disrespectful, but our expectation is we should be beating them at home so you have to accept criticism for that."

Gulf in class?

People thinking Tuesday night against Qatar will be a handy win are mistaken, according to the manager, without even factoring the Luxembourg display.

"Qatar have beaten the other two teams this week - Azerbaijan and Luxembourg - they won the Asia Cup, beating Japan, to their credit," he said.

"They were in the Copa America [group stage] with Argentina and Colombia. They've done very well overall, football-wise.

"It's a good game, and we want to make sure we're ready. A lot of players are getting vital experience and I think that's important.

"We want to put in a good performance, of course we're disappointed to lose. That's something we're all aware of, that that's a huge disappointment. So we want to finish on a better note."


Kenny was asked if the players were planning a protest ahead of the Qatar game.

Teams like Norway and Germany have performed pre-match shows of displeasure at the human rights record of the 2022 World Cup hosts.

6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in their preparation for the tournament.

Kenny says the nature of the camp has been such ahead of the Serbia and Luxembourg games that talk of a protest hasn't come up.

But, given the opposition in Debrecen on Tuesday night, he hasn't ruled it out.

"I'm all about freedom-of-speech. Any individual has the right to express their opinion on the majority of issues, I've no problem with that.

"There is a clear issue with human rights, in the building of stadiums in Qatar and a number of people have died. We can't sweep that under the carpet, that can't be ignored.

"Initially the Norwegian team, and various other teams have backed that, and they're entitled to do that with good reason.

"It's not acceptable for so many people to lose their lives. The disparity of wealth - to have people living in conditions of squalor, and people dying in those conditions, overall is not acceptable.

"Where do you draw the line? America boycotting the Olympics in Russia, Russia boycotting the Olympics in America - what does that achieve? Even years later we haven't actually gauged a measurement of what that actually achieved.

"So is it the handing out of the World Cup initially? Is that the problem? Or should teams refuse to go, or players refuse to play? Those are different matters.

"It's a broader picture in sport - what other countries do you pick and say 'you can't do that' - it is [a] very very complex issue, and something that needs a wider debate."

‘Ireland do not threaten teams’ | Kenny lacking confidence | Richard Dunne

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Aaron Connolly Adam Idah Caoimhin Kelleher Enda Stevens Jason Knight Jayson Molumby Luxembourg Nathan Collins Qatar Republic Of Ireland Serbia Stephen Kenny Troy Parrott

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