Ireland’s promising start under Stephen Kenny

Sean Crosbie

Stephen Kenny’s tenure as Ireland manager has not been great so far, but there are positives to be taken from his first five games.

After his first five games in charge, Stephen Kenny’s record as Republic of Ireland manager is; two draws, three losses and only one goal scored. This new era of Irish football has gotten off to a faltering start.

One positive to take away from recent Irish performances is the clear style of play that Kenny wants to implement.

Gone are the days of Mick McCarthy’s defensive, route-one style of football to which Irish fans have become accustomed.

Instead, Kenny’s side have played a possession-based game that doesn’t feature many long passes. At times this new style of play has proven entertaining, but football is a results-based industry.

So what exactly has gone wrong? The simple answer is that Ireland does not have the players necessary to play the type of football that Kenny wants. The lack of creativity from midfield was very clear to see, as was Ireland’s incapability to put the ball in the back of the net.

Something quite ironic from Ireland’s recent matches is that Shane Duffy still remains the team’s biggest goal threat.

Finding a Robbie Keane replacement has been a major issue for Ireland since his retirement in 2016. Shane Long is the current squad’s leading goal-scorer with seventeen, the last of which came in October of 2016.

Ireland’s inability to find the back of the net was what ultimately led to their penalty shootout loss to Slovakia in their European Championship qualifier. Misses from Conor Hourihane and Alan Browne highlighted Ireland’s need for an out-and-out striker.

Perhaps if certain personnel had been available to Stephen Kenny that night in Bratislava, things could have gone differently. Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were left out of the squad that night, due to the false-positive COVID test of one of the Irish backroom staff.

However, questions must be asked of Kenny’s team selection in general. The main player associated with Kenny’s omissions is Shamrock Rovers midfielder, Jack Byrne.

Left on the bench against Wales and Slovakia, many fans were perplexed as to why Kenny did not bring him on. Byrne would have brought something fresh to a stagnant and uninspiring Irish midfield.

It is too early to make any judgement on Stephen Kenny’s term as Ireland manager. Five games is not enough time for anyone to make their mark. Positives and negatives can be taken from Kenny’s first five games.

For once, an Irish side can be called ambitious for the way in which they play and at times they played some highly entertaining football.

However, the negatives outweigh the positives, particularly when those negatives are the reason Ireland will not be attending the Euros in 2021. At times Ireland lacks the spark in midfield to unlock stern defences, such as Wales, and when opportunities do present themselves, a reliable goal-scorer is not present.

Kenny’s team and style of play has promise, but it is hard to know if the FAI and Irish fans will give him the time needed to make it a success.

Sean Crosbie

Image Credit: RTE