Kenny to leave role as Republic of Ireland boss
Stephen Kenny is confident he leaves behind a “great job” for someone else after his contract as Republic of Ireland manager was not renewed.
Kenny’s side finished fourth in their Euro 2024 qualifying group, winning just two of eight matches, and after Tuesday’s 1-1 friendly draw with New Zealand the Football Association of Ireland made the swift announcement it would not be extending his stay.
The 52-year-old’s three-and-a-half-year reign brought huge change, but crucially not enough wins, and while opinions will differ on his legacy he firmly believes the squad he has reshaped – Kenny has handed competitive debuts to 26 players during his time in charge – will serve his successor well.
“Listen, I think it’s a very exciting squad. I think it’s a great job now, it’s an absolutely great job now with the talent, but talent with experience – and they’ll get better between now and the Nations League,” he said, speaking before the news was announced.
“It’s not until next September now, but they’ll have much more club experience under their belt as well and I think if you picked your best squad there with everyone fit, there’s a lot of talent in it and I think it’s a very good job now, that’s the way I feel.”
Kenny has had little choice but to blood a new generation of attacking players, in particular with David McGoldrick’s retirement in November 2020, prompting him to turn to Adam Idah, Michael Obafemi and Chiedozie Ogbene and later the blossoming talent of Evan Ferguson and Celtic winger Mikey Johnston.
However, while there have been creditable performances and near misses – Portugal needed a last-gasp double to deny Ireland a famous World Cup qualifier victory in Faro in September 2021 – a return of just six wins in 29 competitive matches represents a damning statistic.
Those who questioned Kenny’s appointment in the first place cite that as vindication for their reservations, while even those who have supported him have eventually had to concede that, whatever good he has done, it has not been rewarded with the wins, draws and points he needed to keep his job.
Asked if he would have done anything differently, he said: “Listen, I have no regrets, but did I get everything right? No, I didn’t, of course I didn’t.
“What I had to do in the first period, I don’t think anyone would have been able to deal with it, it was so difficult. But that’s the way it is.
“Listen, it’s been a massive, massive privilege and I’ve understood that every day.
“Yes, there’s been a lot of criticism, but listen, now’s not the time. It’s a small community, the Irish football community and it can be quite political and that’s the disappointing aspect.”
The FAI said “now is the right time for change” ahead of friendly matches taking place in March and June 2024 and the recruitment process for a new head coach begins immediately.
“Over the period of his tenure, Stephen and his staff have worked tirelessly to create the right environment to support the development of our senior men’s team, and we are hugely grateful for that considerable contribution,” said FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill.
“Stephen has also overseen an important period of transition for our senior men’s national team and has given debuts to a significant number of new and younger players and this will serve as a solid platform for whoever now takes this group of players forward.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub